Commentary

Across The Mobile Plains

As we had mentioned yesterday, if you are reading this, chances are you are not a typical mobile user (though you are not exactly burning up the switchboard with your tales of iAd experiences). It likely seems normal to you to access the Internet on a mobile device. And of those of you accessing this on a mobile device, probably somewhere around 30 percent are using an iPod. And all you smug iPaddies run the risk of losing touch with the man on the street, the average Joe with a Nokia and a dream. Lucky for you The Pew Internet and American Life Project asks the average Joe what he does with his crappy brick.

Unlike you, he doesn't really use it to update his Twitter account. Only 10 percent of those surveyed said they used their mobile devices to access a status update service like Twitter. They were also all like, "What-square?"

However, and maybe this is instructive, as many -- 11 percent -- said they'd made a charitable contribution, as said they'd purchased a product (assuming this covers apps and music and other media). These numbers, of course, jump when you look at the 18- to 29-year-old cohort, with 21 percent using status update services, 19 percent having made a charitable donation via text, and 20 percent purchasing something over their mobile devices.

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The Pew study also found that African Americans and English-speaking Hispanics (the survey had no Spanish version) were well ahead of whites in their use of data applications on handheld devices. While just 30 percent of whites used mobile devices to access the Internet, 46 percent of African Americans and 51 percent of Hispanics did.

In general, the typical American is quickly adopting mobile Internet usage. It might even be growing more quickly than you thought. In April of 2009, 25 percent of cell owners said they used their devices to access the Internet, but in May 2010 that figure had gone up to 38 percent.

Shocking is the rapidity with which mobile Web usage is being incorporated into people's lives. In April 2009, 24 percent of those who used their phones to access the Internet said they did so several times a day; in September, that figure had jumped to 37 percent; and by this May, 43 percent fell into the several-times-a-day category.

As the mobile Web becomes quickly adopted, the relative low cost of entry is likely to make it the primary means of accessing the Web. Infrastructure upgrades will surely speed this process, and mobile speeds might surpass ordinary home broadband speeds in many areas. Take for instance Verizon's plan to roll out its LTE 4G network in rural communities. In this vision of America, mobile Web use actually leapfrogs broadband usage.

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