Smartphone Sales Drive Nonvoice Communication, Study Finds

The proliferation of smartphones is increasing the propensity of consumers to use nonvoice communication, a study by BIA/Kelsey finds.

Results from the latest report of Mobile Market View, a consumer study of adult U.S. mobile phone users conducted by BIA/Kelsey with research partner ConStat, found a rapid rise in mobile device usage for nonvoice communications-text messages, e-mail and Internet access-driven primarily by the proliferation of smartphones.

Among mobile consumers surveyed in October for the report, 18.5 percent searched the Internet for products or services in their local area, up from 15.6 percent in 2008, and 16.7 percent connected with a social network such as MySpace or Facebook, up from 9.6 percent in 2008.

The study also found a growing class of "heavy users" of nonvoice modalities. For example, the percentage of users making more than 10 mobile Internet accesses per week continues to increase significantly, now representing over one-fifth of all mobile users. Among mobile users, 48.2 percent sent or received more than 10 text (SMS) messages per week, 21 percent had more than 10 Internet accesses per week, and 20 percent sent or received more than 10 e-mails per week.

Results also indicate that the use of mobile devices for commercial searches increased across the board in 2009. Of particular interest, searches for local products or services now exceed out-of-market searches by a wide margin. Among consumers using mobile devices, 18.5 percent searched the Internet for local products or services, 15.9 percent obtained information about movies or other entertainment, and 13.3 percent obtained information about restaurants or bars. Eleven percent searched the Internet for products or services outside their local area, while 4 percent purchased a physical item that needed to be shipped (e.g., a book), and 3 percent used a coupon from their mobile phone.

"This third wave of our Mobile Market View study confirms several key trends taking shape in the rapidly evolving mobile advertising space," said Steve Marshall, director of research and consulting for BIA/Kelsey. "Not the least among these trends is that mobile is quickly developing into a viable platform for local commercial activity."

Michael Boland, program director for Mobile Local Media at BIA/Kelsey, said in addition to consumer smartphone adoption, recent developments in the mobile marketplace-mobile-optimized Websites, the rapid evolution and implementation of Google's Android OS, and its planned acquisition of mobile ad network AdMob-will drive mobile Internet use and advertising growth.

"Google is clearly interested in replicating its online dominance by positioning itself at the mobile OS level, and around the content that users increasingly consume on smartphones," he said. "Its brand affinity among users and one-stop-shop approach for advertisers will accelerate the shift of dollars spent on mobile advertising in the coming months."

The survey also reveals that usage of mobile devices for viewing or sending video has increased appreciably, with the highest level of traffic in user-generated videos. Among those surveyed for Mobile Market View, 7.9 percent watched or purchased a TV program or segment, 11.7 percent watched or purchased a music video or Internet video, and 17.7 percent sent or received videos.