Smartphones Driving Surge In Mobile Web

Half of all U.S. mobile phone users will be accessing the internet from their handsets by 2013, finds eMarketer.

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Smartphone use was up 23% from the first quarter of 2010, to 25% of the U.S. mobile phone population. This is compared with 16% penetration in the second quarter of 2009, according to market research firm Nielsen. By the end of 2011, the firm is projecting, smartphones will overtake feature phones.

The uptake in the number of smartphones is driving a surge in the use of the mobile internet, and eMarketer is projecting that 85.5 million mobile users will access the web from their handsets this year, up from 83.5 million in the last quarter of 2009.

But by 2013, half all of mobile users will use their smartphones to access the web, a number that will further climb to 142.1 million users, or 53.9% of the U.S. mobile population that will use their devices to access the internet or applications, eMarketer said. In 2008, only 50.9 million (22.3%) mobile phone users accessed the internet, a figure that climbed to 68.6 million (28.7%) in 2009.

"Mobile internet usage will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.7%, much faster than the CAGR of 2.1% expected in mobile subscribers over the same period,'' the firm said in a statement.

ComScore projected in April 2010 that there were 72.8 million users, based on an average three-month period prior to reporting, a figure in line with eMarketer's projections, the firm said. Both firms' figures emphasize the significance of smartphones in propelling mobile internet usage. eMarketer said access to the web from feature phones dropped between April 2009 and April 2010, from 37,718 users to 35,295, while growth in web access from smartphones was in "the triple digits," jumping from 17,785 users to 35,577 in the same time period.

During a three-month period ending in May, 41.7% of U.S. smartphone users owned Blackberrys, according to comScore. Apple followed with a 24.4% share; Microsoft with 13.2%; Google with 13%; and Palm in fifth with 4.8%.

All of this bodes well for advertisers, eMarketer said. The drive in smartphone mobile web browsing "is going to mean a very different type of mobile usage," said Nicole Perrin, senior editor at eMarketer. "Rather than reaching people with SMS text messaging campaigns, advertisers will be able to reach them with both mobile search and display campaigns."

Users are less likely to want to opt-in to SMS-types of ad campaigns because they find texts tend to be primarily for personal communications, she said, citing user surveys, but they are somewhat more willing to look at display ads or sponsorships when they load an app onto their phone.