Jack of all trades

How many times a day does an average user reach for a mobile phone to make or answer a call, read or send an SMS, show off a family photo, log into email or check the rugby score? These devices have streaked ahead of their counterparts as the most widely used and technologically converged devices on the market.

With the benefit of hindsight, it's easy to see why the humble phone has taken pride of place in the converged mobile world. But it wasn't always so obvious.

Early iterations of mobile Internet access were patchy at best, digital photography was too power-hungry to be integrated into a multi-modal mobile platform and the handsets themselves were hard pressed keeping track of address books, let alone music libraries.

Mobile mini-computers offered better functionality; MP3 players improved sound quality; graphics looked sharper on mobile gaming devices; and digital cameras won hands down for image resolution.

So rather than do many things badly, it was assumed for sometime that mobile phones would be relegated to history as telephony was integrated into mobile computers as part of a PDA revolution.

But that's not what happened, and there are some good reasons why.

Somewhere between 80 and 95 per cent of Australians own and use a mobile phone. Thanks to accidents, slippery fingers and general wear, most users replace handsets within two years and tend to upgrade to one with more functionality each time.

That's more than enough time for vendors to come up with snappy new technologies that draw users into a slightly higher price bracket. But forget the idea that up-selling is all about technology because this is a market where bling bling is more important than ring ring.

Solutions marketing manager for 3, James Toepfer, said most phone consumers were more interested in the colour and design of the handset than in the finer technical features.

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