Forget the queues of desperate early iPhone 3G S adopters lining outside Apple, O2 and Carphone Warehouse stores this Friday, a new study reveals that more mobile phones are sold online than in shops.

The YouGov research, reported by Brand Republic, shows that 53 percent of shoppers bought their most recent mobile handset online, compared to just 34 percent who made an in-store purchase.

9,650 consumers were interviewed about their mobile browsing and buying experience in YouGov's Mobile Buying Experience tracking service.

Recent figures from comScore show that Apple iPhone provider O2 was the most prolific UK online advertiser in April followed by T-Mobile in second place and Orange in fifth.

Apple iPhone 3G S smartphone

However, the research also shows that mobile handset manufacturers are failing to maximise the potential of the web as a sales channel, with more than a third of consumers put off making an online purchase because of poor website design and navigation.

Even in-store purchasing is letting customers down and losing operator sales.

Every day there are significant numbers of lost sales opportunities via each channel. Only 54 percent of consumers who shopped for a mobile phone, accessory or service in the past six months actually bought something. Even amongst those who described themselves as serious purchase intenders, only two thirds to reduce poor experiences.

"The mobile phone industry is missing out on significant sales volume, even amongst consumers who are ready and willing to be sold to," says Caroline Gaskin, director of technology and telecoms consulting at YouGov.

"There's a genuine opportunity to gain market share for the retailers which polish their performance."