You Just Don't Understand Me, Man, Says 3

In their report released yesterday about third-quarter handset sales, the analysts at Gartner said that 3G phones wouldn’t make a huge impact on Christmas sales — and unsurprisingly, UK operator 3 disagrees. A spokesman said the Gartner analyst “had clearly misinterpreted the success of 3” and “was patronising 3G customers’ knowledge of the technology”, pointing to 3’s 10 million users worldwide and 3.2 million in the UK as a “clear demonstration of 3G’s success in the market”. Without trying to imply that 3G is a failure, 3’s stats don’t really help prove it as a success, representing less than half a percent of all mobile users worldwide, and about 5% of UK subscribers. Gartner’s reasoning is right — that users in general haven’t yet been presented with a compelling enough reason to upgrade to 3G, despite what 3 would like them to believe. Although it says its users understand things like Web access (a slightly curious comment, given 3’s history in the area), video messaging and watching TV, recent stats from the UK say 41% of 3G users there don’t do anything more than talk and text, and 44% said 3G functionality wasn’t important in choosing a handset. As far as bragging on 3 users’ knowledge about the technology — 14% of 3 subscribers surveyed said they didn’t have a 3G phone, which sorta speaks for itself. 3 itself didn’t take off until it started focusing on cheap voice plans, and it’s said that just a third of its users have paid for data services. Gartner’s sentiment is correct; 3 should take it as a challenge to improve its services and its marketing, rather than a challenge to its mythical crown as the king of UK 3G.

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