The explosive growth of the mobile Internet
By Jonathan Cheah
09 June 2012 – More and more people are going online to surf. Part of this is due to the fact that mobile data is now easily accessible and dropping in price. Many telecommunication companies are now offering data as part of a sales package and in some cases, the amount of mobile data on offer is a key factor in the subscription decision of the user.
Users who are using a portable device to surf have been doubling since 2009. Analytics firm Statcounter has the figure at 8.5%, double the 2011 figure of 4.3%. This means that almost nine in every 100 devices are used to surf the web, an that number is growing fast.
This figure does not even include tablets, which have larger screens and are therefore better at displaying webpages.
The last few years of Nokia dominance have translated into a huge 40% of mobile Internet users accessing the web from Nokia mobile devices. Nokia is strong in countries like India, where the recent introduction of the Internet has many users going mobile unlike in other countries where desktops are still the main mode of accessing the Internet.
Russia was long the leader for mobile Internet users, but Opera has just issued a report saying that India has overtaken Russia in March and April 2012 for the highest number of Opera Mini web browser users, and is projected to accelerate further in growth.
India is home to a young generation of users that are known as the Mobile Internet Generation, or M-Gen. They are the primary group responsible for the growth of India’s mobile Internet usage, and they are staying online while on the move at the cheapest possible cost.
Apple is in second place with about 29% of the mobile user market. This is double that of the third placed maker, which Samsung is at 14%. Interestingly enough, Apple’s 29% still beats the 25% combined total of the various brands that make Android devices.
RIM has declined from 18% in January 2011 to around 8% in January 2012, which reflects the declining sales and usage of BlackBerry devices.
However, in North America, Apple has a 59% stranglehold on the market there, with Samsung at 12% and RIM at 10%.
There is an argument that the premium demographic is on the Apple iOS. This is important as the premium demographic of users is comprised of people that buy online, the most valuable category to marketers and businesses.
I myself use and know of many people who would use a free Wi-Fi connection in place of a pay-for-data option if there is one. Simply put, ordinary users are not bothered about the additional risks of accessing through public Wi-Fi as long as it is free or cheaper than mobile data.
Once those numbers come in, the number of users accessing the Internet through portable devices could be a lot higher than the reports suggest.
Last year, Nielsen published a report indicating that 41% of Malaysians were online in 2010, and further stating that 19% of Malaysians aged 20-24 use mobile phones to access that Internet. That number can only have grown.
Yahoo also did a study last year with Synovate. Digi is the top mobile service provider with 47% of the market, followed by Maxis with 32%. Celcom has a paltry 8% of the mobile user market while the average a Malaysian user spends on phone bills is about RM 45.
Guess what Malaysians were doing online? According to that same Yahoo report, the top four mobile-related activities that Malaysians indulge in are emailing, accessing social networking sites, downloading ring tones and instant messaging.
Still, it serves to reason that we are ahead of the worldwide curve of mobile Internet usage. I see large numbers of young Malaysians clustered around places that offer free Wi-Fi. You have to be on a portable to do that, and most of them are on Netbooks and Notebooks. A growing number are using mobile phones and tablets, and the faster processors and better screens of the latest mobile devices make them a serious rival to traditional portable computers.
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