There isn't much for any of the major wireless carriers or handset makers to crow about in terms of market share gains in first three months of 2010, according to new data from comScore. But they can take some consolation in the growing proportion of customers using their phones to access content and services.
The relative market share of the four U.S. major carriers hardly changed between the end of December 2009 and the end of March, with Verizon claiming 31.1% of mobile subscribers, AT&T (25.2%), and Sprint and T-Mobile with 12% each. Prepaid service Tracfone saw the biggest gain, going from 4.8% to 5.1% in the first quarter.
The handset market saw a bit more jockeying, with Samsung, Motorola and LG now in a virtual dead heat at close to a 22% share each. The biggest change was Motorola slipping 1.6% from a 23.5% to a 21.9% share. BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion moved into fourth place tie with Nokia, gaining 1.3% share to 8.3%.
When it comes to mobile data use, comScore reported figures that should please all parties that benefit from the rise of mobile media. Accessing social networks and blogs was the fastest-growing category in the first quarter, with 18.7% of mobile users going to sites like Facebook or MySpace, up from 15.9% three months ago. The share of people who browse the mobile Web and download applications both grew 2.6%. Nearly one-third (30.1%) is Web surfing and 28.6% are getting apps.
Mobile users listening to music went up 1.1% to 13.2% and those playing games increased slightly to 21.8%. The proportion of people text-messaging-the most common non-voice activity--was also up less than a percentage point to 63.7%. The new comScore findings didn't break out figures separately for regular phone and smartphone users but the latter tends to drive mobile media consumption.
Recent research from NPD Group, for instance, found three quarters of U.S. iPhone and iPod touch users are connecting to the Web to download entertainment content and apps compared to 16% of mobile customers generally.
With a growing mobile audience, NPD advised that entertainment companies should focus on apps not only for direct sales, "but also as a pathway to paying for additional entertainment content, according to analyst Russ Crupnick. "For example, an app that reviews movies could also be a direct channel for purchasing DVDs, [Blue-Ray Discs], or digital forms of video." That's called upselling, which Apple encouraged last year when it gave developers the ability to monetize their wares via in-app transactions.