Global Mobile: U.S. Champions Apps; Adoption Soars In Asia

India-Mobile-UserThe U.S. leads the way in mobile application use, but still trails China and other Asian countries in other types of advanced mobile activities. A new Forrester study looking at mobile behavior worldwide, for instance, finds that mobile Internet adoption is highest in the Asia-Pacific region, where about half of the population in Japan and metropolitan China use their phones to go online at least once a month.

Countries including the U.S., Australia, Sweden, the UK and the Netherlands show an uptake rate of between 28% and 36%, with other markets even lower. Cost and infrastructure challenges explain low mobile Internet penetration in countries such as India, but Forrester said low rates in wealthier nations like Germany, Spain, France and Italy were more surprising.

China also had the highest percentage of what the research firm refers to as “SuperConnecteds,” the most sophisticated mobile phone users. They access the mobile Web at least weekly and make regular use of multiple advanced mobile services and applications. More than half (52%) of mobile users in metro China could be called SuperConnecteds, compared to 33% in the U.S., 17% in the largest seven European countries, and 11% in metro India. 

China is also tied with Spain for having the highest proportion of people owning two or more mobile phones, at 36%, followed by Hong Kong and the U.S., both at 34%, and the Netherlands, at 32%. “With China’s growing appetite for consumer goods, it’s no surprise that the percentage of Chinese adults owning two or more mobile phones has increased from 15% in 2008,” stated the report.

Asia also leads the way in mobile social networking, led by China (34%), Japan (28%) and Hong Kong and the U.S., both at 25%. Forrester noted the level of social networking reflects high overall mobile engagement in China, where 46% use the mobile Internet, 57% listen to music, and 36% play games on their phones at least monthly. 

When it comes to using apps, the U.S. is by far the leader, with 90% of mobile users having downloaded an app in the last three months. The U.K. is second, at 66%, followed by the Netherlands (63%) and France (62%). The EU-7 as a whole stands at 61%.

Among the most popular app categories globally are weather, games, social networking, navigation/mapping, music, and news. However, there are local differences: While weather tops the list in the U.S., games and social networking lead in Europe.

Apps are not generally as popular in Asia, but music and gaming are the top categories. In India, for example, 74% of online consumers with access to mobile Internet who have downloaded a mobile app have used a music app in the past three months. That reflects the key role mobile phones play in India as entertainment devices because of the dearth of non-phone devices like iPods.

The study found similarities in mobile commerce on either side of the world. A quarter of mobile Internet users in the U.S. and metro China have used their phone to research products for purchase, but only between 9% and 16% have actually bought something online in both markets.

Other research, including that by comScore and the Pew Research Center, has found U.S. mobile users adopting certain mobile activities at higher rates than in the Forrester results. For instance, comScore estimates that 31% accessed a social networking site or blog on average for the three months ending in August, and 42% used a browser.

The Forrester findings were based on separate surveys conducted in North America, Europe and Asia earlier this year, involving from 10,802, 22,501 and 11,461 participants, respectively, in each region.

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