LONDON: Mobile internet usage is rising around the world, but many consumers remain concerned about the privacy and cost implications of this activity, a multimarket study has revealed.

Ernst & Young, the advisory group, polled 6,000 web users in 12 countries. It found that 59% of this digitally-connected audience went online using a mobile phone several times a week, a total reaching 49% for visiting social networks.

Another 25% of people leveraged instant messaging platforms, with mobile video also witnessing an 18% penetration. Music services posted 17% here, and third-party app stores logged 13%.

Some 8% of the panel had used their phone to make payments in physical locations or transferred money in this way. A further 24% proved keen to try the first of these tools, as did 22% for the latter.

"Smartphones unlock new mobile phone services," Jonathan Dharmapalan, Ernst & Young's global telecoms leader, said. "But regular usage by smartphone owners remains low."

In all, smartphone users typically utilised five data-driven services. This figure fell to 2.5 for people possessing other, more basic gadgets, such as feature phones.

Across the ten areas assessed, an average of 17.2% of interviewees had given up a once regular activity in the last two years, peaking at 24% for watching video and accessing app stores.

Another 30.4% of participants had "no intention" of undertaking such pastimes going forward, reaching 43% for making mobile payments at stores and 41% for transfers.

One obstacle to the greater uptake of services was a lack of understanding about data tariffs, with 54% of 46–64 year olds "struggling" to make sense of their package, alongside 31% of 18–24 year olds.

Moreover, just 18% of individuals questioned felt they were clearly able to discern the potential benefits of adopting new mobile services provided by their operator.

Fears of overspending and a lack of clarity about data plans also acted as major disincentive for trying new mobile services. Worries linked to privacy and entering credit card details played a similar role.

The highest-earning consumers typically utilised 4.5 services each, and spent $69.60 on their service a month. This compared with an average of four services and expenditure of $47.60.

When discussing apps, 29% of the sample would prefer free limited access with the option of payment for a full version, while 25% favoured free tools with in-app ads, and 16% thought a one-off, discounted fee after taking a trial was the best approach.

Data sourced from Ernst & Young; additional content by Warc staff