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5/17/2011
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Tablets Becoming Popular For Email

iPads and other tablets are helping to fuel a big increase in the number of people consuming email on mobile devices.

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More people are reading their email on mobile devices than ever before, while use of desktop email has remained more or less steady. Those are the results of research released by Return Path, an email marketing and monitoring firm, which looked at where, when, and how email is most often read, and on what devices.

Return Path defined email in several different categories, including webmail (email via an Internet browser), desktop email (Outlook, Lotus, etc.), and mobile platforms. Return Path says that people read their email just about everywhere they go.

According to its results, 48% of all email is consumed via Web browsers (webmail). Popular webmail services such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Hotmail/Windows Live make up the bulk of this use, as they each offer feature-rich online email experiences. Return Path didn't note how much corporate email is read via webmail.

Those reading messages via deskstop email programs constitute 36% of email use, with Microsoft's Outlook owning a significant 63% of that user base. About 16% of all email consumed is done so via mobile devices. While that may not seem all that much, Return Path points out that mobile consumption of email has surged 81%, mostly at the expense of webmail, which used to have a higher percentage of users.

The study suggests that tablets are largely responsible for the growth in mobile email consumption.

"With the rise of the iPad and the tablet market, mobile has been redefined," said Bryan Dreller, a product manager for Return Path in a statement. "According to our study, iPad viewership has grown 15% between October 2010 and March 2011 and we expect to continue to see this percentage grow in the coming months with the recent release of iPad 2. Marketers need to adapt to this change in where and when consumers are accessing email and online content."

Interestingly, Return Path noticed some trends on when email is most consumed during the week. Mobile email use is most popular when people are out and about (obviously). More mobile email is consumed in the latter part of the week, starting on Thursday and slowly ramping up to a peak on Saturdays before tapering off again on Sunday.

By way of comparison, desktop email use is concentrated during the work week, peaking on Wednesdays and dropping off over the weekends. Webmail, as with mobile email, is mostly used over the weekends.

What's the take away from all of this? Mobile email isn't just for business users any more. With mobile email use peaking over the weekends when people are more apt to travel about, it is clear that remaining in touch--no matter the platform--remains important.

Return Path's Dreller believes that though desktop and webmail email programs may provide a richer experience overall, being able to send the right message at the right time (such as when mobile) outweighs the benefits of stationary email systems.

Businesses have myriad technology options for pulling together people and ideas. But getting it right still isn't easy. Also in the new all-digital issue of InformationWeek SMB: A UC champion's survival guide. Download it now. (Free registration required.)

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