We’ve questioned why Research In Motion (RIMM) omitted wi-fi Internet access in their new BlackBerry Storm — the phone they’re hoping can compete with Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone. And we’re going to do it again.
Why? Because even though Verizon’s (VZ) official excuses for not including wi-fi on the device — bulk, battery life — are plausible, research suggests that iPhone owners use their phone’s wi-fi a lot. (And if the whole point of your gadget is to convince someone not to buy an iPhone, you’d better be matching it feature-for-feature, especially the ones people like.)
Mobile ad network AdMob says 42% of iPhone ad requests last month came over a wi-fi signal — not over a mobile carrier’s network. That’s not exactly the same as saying that iPhone owners used wi-fi for 42% of Web sites they visited, but it’s probably not far off.
We’d bet that some of that wi-fi usage is to compensate for AT&T’s (T) sub-par 3G service. In New York City it’s been particularly disappointing. (And chalk up some more wi-fi usage to the fact that the iPhone is probably more useful than most phones at home — as an Internet device, iTunes remote control, etc.)
But we think much of it is because people choose to use wi-fi over 3G whenever possible. It’s significantly faster at downloading Web pages and email than 3G. And it’s great for using the iPhone (or any wi-fi phone) as an Internet device overseas: International Internet roaming service is a rip-off, but there’s free wi-fi all over the place.
We hope to hear more about RIM’s reaction to the Storm launch this afternoon during the company’s earnings call, which we’ll cover live. (Join us beginning at 4 p.m. ET.) But even if they avoid the topic, we hope RIM’s Storm 2.0 team — if one exists — is figuring out how to shoehorn a wi-fi chip into its gadget.
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