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Mobile: Less phone, more data

mobile dataTwo recent studies this week underscore a trend obvious not only to smartphone owners (a segment rapidly achieving dominance in the mobile phone market), but also to those early adopters of Kindles, iPads and the like. What matters in mobile is the data, not the vox.

comScore found that in the three month period ending in February 2010, 45.4 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones, a 21% jump over November, 2009. The fastest gainer in that segment is Google, whose Android platform rose an impressive 5.2 percentage points in only three months.

Correspondingly, mobile content use is growing apace. In an average month, 64 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers tested, up 1.9 percentage points over the three prior months. Mobile browsers were used by 29.4% of U.S. mobile subscribers (+2.4%), while subscribers who used downloaded applications made up 27.5% (+1.8%). Accessing social networking sites or blogs swelled to 18% of mobile subscribers.

It’s not just Americans who are spending more time looking at their phones than holding them to their ears. Chetan Sharma just released its semiannual report on the global wireless markets that indicates mobile data is clobbering mobile voice communications. According to Sharma, global mobile data revenues reached $220B, with mobile data now contributing 26% of overall global mobile service revenues.

The U.S. extended its lead over Japan as the most valuable mobile data market, with $44.56B in service revenue vs. $32.5B for Japan in 2009. China ranked third with $20.3B. The States registered the highest growth rate of the top three, with over 40% increase from late 2008 levels. For many superphone heavy operators, iPhone and Android devices accounted for over half their total data traffic.

Observes the Chetan Sharma report: “The velocity with which the smartphones are being introduced into the market, especially the western markets, one wonders if in five years, we will be using the moniker to describe devices and if the ‘dumbness’ in the device market will be practically eliminated. Led by Apple’s Appstore success, significant investments are pouring into the appstore world. In parallel, the debate over apps vs. mobile web is intensifying. The implications of the transition will be significant on the ecosystem on many levels.”


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