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Two-thirds of Consumers Fret About Phone Security

We're using our phones for banking, buying, and broadcasting our location -- but that doesn't mean we're not still nervous.

Consumers are becoming more comfortable with mobile services like location tracking and banking, but a significant number of them -- 68 percent -- are uncertain how safe their data is when it's stored or transmitted from a cell phone.

That was one of the findings in a study released today by Oracle Communications, a business unit focusing on telecommunications within Oracle Corporation of Redwood Shores, California.

The survey of some 3000 global mobile phone consumers finds significant growth in the number of wireless wranglers banking online through their phones (28 percent in 2011 compared to 18 percent in 2010) and making online purchases (18 percent versus 9 percent, year over year), but those activities aren't doing much to calm the qualms mobile users have about their phone's security. For example, only 6 percent of the survey sample said they'd made a purchase in a store with a mobile phone and only 21 percent said they feel "very comfortable" making a purchase with a phone instead of a credit card.

What could be contributing to consumers' anxiety about mobile phone security are the almost weekly reports of malware attacks on Android smartphones that have been appearing for months now.

Oracle researchers also found that nearly half the consumers (41 percent) of the consumers participating in the study who do not have a tablet computer intend to buy one in the next twelve months.

Smartphones have significantly penetrated mobile markets around the world, with 70 percent of the respondents saying they use that type of mobile device, according to the study.

Concerns about privacy threats posed by location services appear to be fading in the minds of many consumers, the researchers discovered. While 33 percent of consumers in 2010 said they were interested in receiving relevant content based on their location, in this year's survey, 45 percent say they're already chosen to share location information with an app on their phone.

What's more, smartphones are increasingly replacing other electronic devices in their users' gadget arsenal. For example, in the 2010 edition of the survey, 52 percent of survey respondents said they believed their mobile phone would replace their digital camera by 2015. In this year's version, 43 percent say their phone has already replaced their camera.

Similarly, in 2010 54 percent of respondents believed their phone would replace their music player by 2015; in 2011, 34 percent say it has already supplanted their music player.

Fifty-four percent of those surveyed in 2010 also predicted that their GPS units would be replaced by their phone by 2015, but only 24 percent say their mobiles have already replaced their GPSs.

Data usage by consumers has also increased over the last year, the study found. Some 47 percent of the respondents told surveyors that their data usage has increased over the last 12 months. Increased usage is reported in other areas, too, such as text messaging (41 percent), call minutes (39 percent), and apps (38 percent).

Oracle's survey (PDF)also had some good news for wireless carriers. More than four-fifths of the respondents (84 percent) say their mobile service provider is doing a good job. However, only about half those surveyed (54 percent) believe their carriers gave them the necessary tools to manage their monthly usage.

Follow freelance technology writer John P. Mello Jr. and Today@PCWorld on Twitter.


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