Mobile users, look forward to more free videos

According to a study, cell phone and smartphone users would watch more videos online if they could get them for free. Well, duh.

Mobile users who haven't made the jump to watching videos on their cell phones and smartphones may see a juicy, dangling carrot on the horizon. A paper submitted by John Barrett of Parks Associates and David Wertheimer of USC's Entertainment Technology Center (PDF), summarizes that mobile phone users will watch more videos on their phones if they can get them for free. Well, duh. Who doesn't want free?

The study found that only a fraction of users with video-capable phones take advantage of them to watch movies and TV. Many of the reasons boil down to price, low film quality, and video presentation. As one user summed it up, "I don't feel that spending $13 dollars on the iTunes music store in order to get a DVD that I could buy for $5 or $10 somewhere else is reasonable since it's in lower quality." Said another, "I don't want to watch a two-hour movie on a two-inch screen." Roger that.

The authors' solution? Studios need to think like Apple, they say, and use free video content as a lure to premium services that users will be willing to finance as playback technologies mature. Apple's CEO Steve Jobs owes much of his company's recent success to playing Hollywood. Now it could be Hollywood's turn to profit from Apple's model, and build goodwill along the way.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.