Commentary

Mobile Browsing Hits Almost 40%

Smart-Phones

Android's capturing a full third of smartphone market share was the focus of attention when comScore released its mmonthly mobile metrics report last Friday. But Android's surge overshadowed a broader spike in mobile data activity -- including Web browsing, downloading apps and social networking.

Each of these areas increased just over three percentage points for the three months ending in February, with mobile browsing expanding to nearly four in 10 mobile users (38.4%), app downloading (36.6%) and social networking (26.8%). Compared to the end of February 2010, usage in each of those categories has gone up from 29.4%, 27.5% and 18%, respectively.

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The proportion of the 234 million U.S. mobile users 13 or older playing games also jumped a couple of percentage points to nearly a quarter (24.6%), while the share of those listening to music on cell phones reached 17.5%.

Text messaging remained by far the most popular mobile data activity, at 68.8%, though not growing as fast as the above activities propelled by the spread of smartphone ownership. More than 45 million people in the U.S. now have smartphones, up 21% from the end of November 2009, according to comScore.

But just owning a smartphone doesn't mean people are going to start using it like a mini-PC, as research presented at the Mobile Insider Summit earlier this year showed. The findings from InsightExpress indicated a quarter of smartphone users don't even consider their devices to be smartphones. Just a small percentage of owners use smartphones to engage with apps (16%) or play games (8%). So the adoption curve for certain mobile data activities will likely continue to lag behind that of smartphones themselves.

But as consumer spend more time learning about the full features of their phones -- and as media capabilities of high-end phones improve -- the usage figures should continue to grow across mobile data categories. While comScore doesn't include mobile video in its monthly report, data from Nielsen last week showed that this audience had increased 40% from a year ago, to 25 million.

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