Sprint Nextel Corp customers can now use mobile phones to shop for everything from shoes to televisions in a new service the No. 3 U.S. wireless company has launched to boost revenue.
The company said on Thursday it is providing a mobile Web portal for shoppers to compare prices or buy about 7 million products from 30 online retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Target Corp bluefly.com and shoes.com.
Sprint, which developed its Mobile Shopper service with privately held start-up mShopper.com, said it is the first to launch such a service in the United States.
It said it will not charge mobile users extra subscription fees for the service, but it will charge them for Web access.
The big opportunity for Sprint is the potential increase of data usage, said Sprint product manager Charnsin Tulyasathien.
Sprint, along with its rivals, has been pushing data services such as Web surfing and video and music downloads in an effort to get customers to use their phones for more than just talking.
While online shopping from desktop computers have long become mainstream, mobile commerce has yet to take off as the adoption of Web-surfing on cell phone has been slow.
But faster wireless data speeds and better handsets could boost the mobile shopping market, said Jupiter Research analyst Alan Goode.
Goode forecast the North American market for mobile online shopping would increase to $505 million in 2008 and $1.9 billion in 2010 from about $40 million in 2006. This compared with a $200 million market in Europe in 2006.
Initially, Tulyasathien expects the comparison shopping feature to be more popular among Sprint shoppers than purchasing, but he believes that will change.
As people become more comfortable, I wouldn't be surprised if they started making more purchases through Mobile Shopper, he added.
(Reporting by Sinead Carew)