MANILA: More and more Filipinos are researching products online via mobile devices using public wi-fi, but they remain reluctant to commit to buying online, research has said.

The TNS Mobile Life 2013 study, based on face-to-face interviews with 500 respondents in Metro Manila, found that 45% were now browsing the internet on smartphones, up from 32% a year earlier.

The report also said that Filipinos tend to use their mobile devices when researching a product they'd like to buy. "At the moment we've seen a situation in mobile where it's online research before purchase," Joseph Webb, head of digital at TNS Greater China, told Rappler.

"[Online] purchasing is still low in the Philippines," he said.

Security was the main concern, which Webb added was holding back the development of online banking.

This may also be linked to the preference of Filipinos to use public wi-fi as more than half the respondents said data plans were too expensive.

Despite the costs involved, the phone is regarded as a vital part of everyday life. Some 64% of people in Metro Manila considered it to be their most important piece of technology, compared to a global average of 54%.

The report said its importance to ManileƱos ranged from being an extension of their personality to being a source of entertainment" while it also enabled them to create their own mobile personal space or "circle of trust."

Gary de Ocampo, managing director at TNS Philippines, said the social aspect was the main reason for using mobile phones: "It's all about the sharing."

He added: "Brands that want to penetrate this mobile personal space must be able to address consumers' needs by providing them convenience, relevance, independence, experience and reassurance."

Data sourced from Rappler, GMA News; additional content by Warc staff