@ CTIA: Teens Want Solar-Powered Phones And Simple Features

CTIA closed the week with a focus on teens. Following some seemingly requisite video footage of teens talking about their cellphones in Miami, Austin and Los Angeles, Trip Hawkins, CEO of Digital Chocolate and founder of EA, did a quick run through of a teen study released today by CTIA. Release.

Hawkins: “We’re in the middle of what I call an omni (meaning many) media revolution… Most of the people on earth grew up in the age of computers.” Reflecting on what he saw as the inverse law of “omni media,” Hawkins argued that less is more. “SMS is arguably the first omni media application that’s being used by a billion people… The consumer is actually rejecting the most advanced technologies… People are feeling too checked out… What they want is to find new ways to check in… The consumer doesn’t want to feel like they’re being thrown into the deep end of the pool.” And what could be simpler than SMS – more people use it than email.

Then he introduced a group of seven teens ranging from ages 13 to 18. Initial thoughts from the group varied from in-network calling plans that free up minutes to texting, browsing the web and shoddy battery life. All of the teens text message their friends and family frequently, but only some use more advanced features like the internet or games. If it’s not free, good luck getting the majority of these kids to use anything beyond voice or SMS.

What about the iPhone? “They have, in my opinion, by far the greatest games,” a 13-year old boy said. Another teen said it’s all the privileged kids at his school that own iPhones. Still, all seven raised their hands saying they’d own an iPhone if they had the time and money.

Games: “I think more people would buy (games) if they weren’t so expensive… It’s just a ton of money paying for games that for the most part don’t have much in visual quality,” the boy said. Another teen added: “If you want to browse for games, it costs money, which is just not good.”

Ads: “I think if it’s free you can’t really complain,” a girl said.

Can cellphones improve the world? “If you’re trying to combat something worldwide like global warming and you have an organization, cellphones are a key thing,” the teen boy said. When Hawkins asked the teens if they’d like to be notified of community volunteer work via text message, for example, the issue fell on deaf ears.

What about BlackBerrys? While it may not scream cool like the iPhone, quite a few of the teens said they’d like a RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) device.

How do schools react to cellphone use? Most teachers don’t allow their use in the classroom, but one girl said she knows at least one student that takes notes on her iPhone in English class. Another jumped in saying he’d probably get detention for a week if he was caught using an iPhone in class. His school doesn’t allow cellphones at school at all. If they’re caught with a cellphone, they get 90 minutes of detention.

Who makes cell service and device decisions? “Actually my parents have chosen all of my phones because if it was up to me I’d have a $1,000 phone,” one teen said. Another said he’s the “text support guy” in his house, so his parents typically follow his lead.

What teens want from future devices: One teen said he thinks the market’s hit a “high point,” but others asked for some already existing services and features such as video chat, better cameras, headphone jacks and TV or video. But one thing all the teens agreed on is a need for solar-powered phones. “If you can do it with a calculator, you can do it with a phone,” one teen said. Another said it would be great if a text message could automatically be sent to their parents when their phone battery died so they wouldn’t get in trouble or cause their parents to worry.

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