Even as bloggers are championing Verizon's Motorola Droid as the first bonafide challenger for Apple's iPhone, a new report shows the iPhone has boosted the mobile Web to unprecedented heights.
A new report from Morgan Stanley Internet analyst Mary Meeker shows that the iPhone and iPod Touch have fueled the mobile Web to outstrip the growth of the Web on the desktop.
After only eight quarters, the iPhone and iPod Touch have 57 million users. That is more than twice as many users as NTT Docomo's imode mobile, but 5 times as many users as Netscape's 11 million and 8 times as many users as AOL's 7 million users.
Need more proof of iPhone's force? Citing data from Net Applications, Meeker said the iPhone boasts an HTML mobile Web page view penetration rate of 65 percent. The iPhone also racks up 43 percent of mobile applications usage share, according to AdMob.
Moreover, Meeker's data suggested the iPhone is carrying AT&T's mobile network, with data traffic 50 times higher than it was before the first iPhone launched in June 2007. GigaOm's Om Malik backed up the data, noting that while the rest of AT&T's business is weak:
"In the third quarter, the company added 2 million new wireless subscribers to reach a total of 81.6 million. Further, some 4.3 million 3G-integrated devices were added to the AT&T network, of which the iPhone accounted for 3.2 million activations. And thanks to that, wireless data revenues jumped 33.6 percent over the previous year, to $3.6 billion, thus helping push the ARPU up by 3.8 percent from the same quarter last year."
Can anything top the iPhone? It's unclear, but the Google Android-based Verizon Motorola Droid might have the best shot to date. Specifications stumbled upon by the Boy Genius Report are impressive. The blog details the device, with pictures, here.
Moreover, Verizon has done a fine job marketing Droid for being what iPhone isn't: open, customizable and featuring a 5 megapixel camera and other features. The Droid is also the first to run the Android 2.0 mobile operating system and features Google Maps, Google Calendar, Google Latitude and access to the Android Market, Facebook and other social media sites.
At 11 percent of the global smartphone units shipped, the iPhone has an impressive plot. However, it is early and challengers are racing to the fore from T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon.
Droid and other Android devices could provide healthy competition because of the great, green fields of mobile social netwoeking and location-based services, which are largely untapped. Meeker said:
"Improvements in social networking and mobile computing platforms (led by Facebook + Apple ecosystems) are fundamentally changing ways people communicate with each other and ways developers/advertisers/vendors reach consumers. Mobile devices will evolve as remote controls for ever expanding types of real-time cloud-based services, including emerging category of location-based services, creating opportunities + dislocations, empowering consumers in unprecedented + transformative ways."
That's good news for location-oriented mobile social services such as Foursquare, Loopt and Brightkite. It's also good news for iPhone challengers who can lure consumers by promoting these services on their smartphones.
However, its is incumbent on carriers to slake users' thirst for these mobile Web services, as Meeker noted: "Explosive Apple iPhone/iTouch ramp shows that usage of mobile devices on IP-based networks should surprise to upside for years to come and bandwidth suppliers (telcos/cable) face serious challenges in managing incremental traffic."
Rob Enderle, analyst for the Enderle Group, agreed, noting that the U.S. has a bandwidth shortage. AT&T, he said, is at the epicenter of it and will have to contend with Verizon's forthcoming LTE 4G mobile broadband service.
"Also, the smartphone market is still emerging. Only a small fraction of the people have them and Verizon is clearly positioning away from the iPhone which gives Apple T-Mobile (closely tied to Microsoft and Google) and Sprint (Palm) in the US," Enderle said.