Mobile Internet Usage Becomes the Norm for Many in U.S.

Accessing the mobile Web is a daily activity for 22.4 million mobile users in the U.S., according to research released by comScore. Between January 2008 and January 2009, the number of daily mobile Web users doubled.

Over the past year, several factors, mostly technology-driven, have encouraged users rely more on their mobile devices. Those factors include better handsets, better networks, and better user interfaces. “What that means for the user is there’s a lot more stuff to do out there, consumer services, access to bank accounts, directions,” Mark Donovan, senior vice president of mobile at comScore, told ClickZ Stats.

Content categories, as well as handset categories, continue to drive mobile Web adoption. “Social networking and blogging have emerged as very popular daily uses of the mobile Web, and these activities are growing at a torrid pace,” said Donovan. “We also note that much of the growth in news and information usage is driven by the increased popularity of downloaded applications, such as those offered for the iPhone, and by text-based searches. While smartphones and high-end feature phones, like the Samsung Instinct and LG Dare, comprise the top 10 devices used for news and information access, 70 percent of those accessing mobile Internet content are using feature phones.” Feature phones (define) are phones that don’t have an open operating system, such as Symbian or other smartphones. The devices are subsidized and are available for low costs.

“The Instinct has a touch screen, it looks like another phone,” Donovan said. “What we’re seeing in general with the technology is that it makes mobile browsing compelling to people. It’s moved from just being the province of the highest-end smartphone to what we would call high-volume, high-end feature phones.

“The fact that we’re calling out the classes of different phones and models is much more than just a phenomenon of the iPhone,” Donovan said.

Daily access to the mobile Web has more than doubled in a year. In January 2008, 10.8 million people accessed the Web through mobile phones daily; the rate increased 107 percent to 22.4 million in January 2009. Weekly access didn’t quite double, jumping from 10.3 million in January 2008 to 19.3 million in 2009, an 89 percent increase. Those who used the mobile Web on a monthly basis numbered 36.9 million in 2008 and 63.2 million in 2009, a 71 percent jump. Totals are a three-month average culminating in January of the respective years and exclude social networking.

Consumers frequent content under the convenience and entertainment categories. The most popular sites continue to be in the news category, which groups news, weather, maps, and other information sources. “This underscores the growing importance of the mobile medium as consumers become more reliant on their mobile devices to access time-sensitive and utilitarian information,” Donovan said. Social networks is the fastest-growing category, with 427 percent change year-over-year from January 2008.

Fastest Growing U.S. Mobile Web Content Categories, January 2008 and January 2009
Category Daily Unique Users, January 2008 (000) Daily Unique Users, January 2009 (000) Change (%)
Accessed any news and information 10,821 22,369 107
Accessed social networking site or blog 1,761 9,278 427
Traded stocks or accessed financial account 1,135 3,274 188
Accessed movie information 1,077 3,072 185
Accessed business directories 939 2,447 161
Accessed entertainment news 2,104 5,470 160
Note: Figures are a three-month average ending January 2008 and January 2009.
Source: comScore, 2009

Data for comScore are compiled through a panel of Internet users. Mobile data are collected through interviews and handset-installed panel software to observe anonymous user behavior.

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