Wireless Use Fuels Mobile Marketing Opportunities

Mobile phones have reached critical mass in the United States, and the adoption of wireless data services and added features is growing, according to a new study that identifies mobile phone usage patterns. Enpocket, a New York-based mobile marketing company, unveiled findings on Thursday from its new quarterly study, the "U.S. Mobile Media Monitor," detailing shifts in consumer usage patterns to marketers and network operators.

Key results from a survey of 1,000 telephone interviews conducted in late April by NOP World for Enpocket show that 53 percent of the U.S. adult population (110 million) owns a mobile phone, while one-third of these mobile phone users actively engage in text messaging or short message services (SMS).

Rob Lawson, general manager-North America for Enpocket, says that the most surprising finding is consumers' rapid adoption of advanced mobile media applications like SMS, picture messaging, and wireless data/Internet services. "The carriers have done a very good job of promoting next-generation products," Lawson notes.

Lawson says that text messaging, which is the most widely used mobile media application in the United States, should continue to grow during the next two to three years. SMS, like email, Lawson says, will soon become a routine communication channel. He notes that 78 percent of Europeans currently use text messaging, while it is only just beginning to be frequently used in the United States, where penetration is 35 percent among mobile phone users.

The most popular mobile media application outside of text messaging is the downloading of ring tones, which has hit the 13 percent penetration mark within the last three months. Ring tone downloads are followed by wireless application protocol (WAP), or mobile Internet services, which currently reach 12 percent of mobile owners.

The Enpocket report notes that 12 percent of mobile phone owners access the Internet from their cell phones in the United States. Lawson says the adoption of WAP-enabled services has spread significantly during the last year because technological innovations have added color and more compelling content. He says that Internet access over the cell phone is useful for checking weather, sports scores, and location information. "I think we'll see a lot of change there in the next 12 to 18 months; it's almost a surprise growth area," he says.

Picture messaging is used by 8 percent of the mobile population, according to the report--which says that 21 percent of 18- to-25-year-olds with wireless phones use this service.

Games downloading is also a new mobile media. The report indicates that only 4 percent of the mobile population downloads games--skewing 70 percent male, 83 percent under the age of 34--and, interestingly, 75 percent of mobile gamers earn less than $30K annually.

The youngest forms of mobile media, according to the report, are text promotions and mobile marketing. Less than 2 percent of mobile phone users have accessed a text promotion for a TV show, an ad, a magazine, or radio show.

Enpocket, which specializes in mobile marketing, primarily organizes mobile marketing campaigns via SMS and WAP. Lawson says that most of the company's U.S. campaigns are text-based. The majority of its WAP campaigns have run in Asia and Europe, where WAP penetration is higher. "Consumers are now adopting a whole range of [mobile] applications," Lawson says. "As the marketing industry gets increasingly fragmented, [mobile marketing] is becoming a compelling way to reach consumers."

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