Forget Apps Stores, music and the web on your phone. A recent survey by market research analyst TNS has shown that the most used service reported by UK phone users is Bluetooth.
You know a technology has moved into the mainstream when it starts appearing as a noun or an adjective (much to the annoyance of brand managers). But in the UK, Bluetooth has just done just that. We wear our Bluetooths on our ears and Bluetooth our pictures to one another. It’s nice to discover that this unofficial consensus of colloquial usage has been endorsed by real data.
TNS ComTech ran a survey for telecoms.com, who have just published the first results, covering the UK audience. TNS asked 15,000 customers aged 12 and above about the services they used most on their handsets. Topping the list at 65% was taking pictures. (As that’s not technically a service, but a feature, we’ll let that pass.) Next came sending pictures, which is split between Bluetooth, the network and probably cables, before they came to the first real service which was Bluetooth. 36% of users in the 2008 survey claimed to use it, putting it ahead of playing games, listening to music, making videos, connecting their phone to a computer, internet browsing, using the FM radio and sending videos. eMail didn’t figure in the top ten, confirming that it’s predominantly an occupation for sad suits.
Who would have guessed that Bluetooth would do so well? It’s one of those untalked about features that gets forgotten. As a result, the assumption is that it’s not used. Initially there were problems with interoperability and ease of use, but over the ten years since it first appeared in phones it’s been getting better and better and easier to use.
As well as using it for headsets, it’s used for most of the services that are listed above – sending photos, playing games, listening to music, connecting a phone to a PC and sending videos – all the things that connect phones to accessories and each other.
It doesn’t stop there. The police and public authorities are regularly using it to connect with the public.
- Used by Cardiff police to send an anti-knife rap track to schoolkids.
- Transmit a message asking for information about a local murder to the mobile phones of fans at a football match in Edinburgh.
- Sending out anti drink-drive messages to Bluetooth enabled mobile phones in Scotland.
It’s being used for dating, particularly in cultures where the sexes would not generally mix. It’s established as a way to share content between friends, for short videos and photos. There are multiplayer Bluetooth games for phones. In other words it’s becoming the glue of the mobile community.
Many techie sceptics have probably missed out the way in which Bluetooth software has improved. Five years ago it was clunky. Today it works. My latest Nokia phone connects to my laptop whenever I turn the Bluetooth connection on (one click on the laptop) and stores any new contacts, photos or videos so that I have a constant back up.
When I see a laptop user plugging in their 3G USB dongle and having to reboot their PC to make it work I smile silently. I make a Bluetooth link to the Nokia handset in my pocket (admittedly two clicks on the PC) and use my phone to surf the net, without the hassle of having a second phone contract or unstable dongle software.
Moving from technical toy to simple ubiquity is what’s propelled Bluetooth up the UK chart to its current position – it’s the fact that it works and people find it useful. If we accept the figures one third of phone users have done that and are now regularly using Bluetooth. That’s an impressive figure.
If you’re one of the two thirds who haven’t revisited Bluetooth, maybe it’s time to throw off the Luddite tendencies and try the water again. You might even appreciate it.