The use of mobile devices to access the Internet is becoming the medium of choice in a good chunk of the planet, with 69% of all Internet users surveyed doing so daily, according to Mobile Web Watch 2012, a study of consumers in Europe, Latin America and South Africa conducted by Accenture. In addition, consumers are using multiple devices to connect to the web, including smartphones (61%), netbooks (37%), and tablets (22%).
The study found that emerging economies such as Brazil, South Africa and Russia are front-runners in the adoption of mobile devices (more than 70%, on average) to access the Internet. Given their affordability, smartphones are more likely than other devices to serve as access gateways to the Internet in these emerging markets. This trend is set to continue, with a higher percentage of respondents in emerging markets expressing their intention to buy a Web-enabled mobile phone in the near future (Brazil, 78%; Russia, 73%; Mexico, 61%; and South Africa, 57%) as compared with an average of 46% for all countries surveyed.
In developed European economies, mobile Internet is also on the rise. In Germany, adoption of mobile Internet access via smartphones has tripled since 2010 (from 17 to 51%). In Switzerland, today 67% of respondents use Web-enabled mobile phones to go online, compared to 27% in 2010. In Austria, the%age of mobile Internet users has doubled in two years (from 31 to 62%).
“The growth in use of mobile devices to access the Internet, in conjunction with a willingness to pay for mobile services such as cloud or premium services, is opening up a host of opportunities for market players in the communications, media and technology industries,” said Prof. Dr. Nikolaus Mohr, a managing director in Accenture’s Communications, Media & Technology operating group. “Companies would do well to leverage the efficiencies of this mass market. We believe that this can be achieved through innovation and, more importantly, through collaboration among all the players in the value chain of the communications, media and technology industries.”
A growing ecosystem of mobile apps is fueling the rapid growth of the mobile Internet, providing consumers easy access to services they consider important. 71% of mobile Internet users have downloaded programs or apps to their mobile devices. Information apps, such as train schedules, the weather, or news are the most popular, according to nearly three-quarters (72%) of survey respondents, followed closely by entertainment apps (70%). 85% of the respondents said that the quality of the network was the most important factor in selecting a smartphone or tablet.
The study also revealed that connecting with other users is the most important activity among mobile Internet users. Sending or receiving e-mails through an installed program is the most popular feature among all respondents (70%), followed by accessing online communities (62%) and instant messaging (61%).
For younger users, online communities and instant messaging have become key tools to connect with other users. Two-thirds (68%) of the 14- to 19-year-old respondents use them at least daily. 16% of this age group are “heavy users,” communicating via online communities and instant messaging more than ten times a day on a mobile device. A significantly smaller segment of respondents aged 30-plus use these services on a daily basis, with percentages ranging from 41 to 57%, and only three to 9% are heavy users.
Respondents in the emerging markets of Mexico and South Africa are the biggest users of mobile email and instant messaging (more than 80% of respondents in both countries). Among all respondents, 27% use their mobile device for Tweeting and blogging, and almost half – 46% – use mobile devices to conduct banking transactions.
The survey also highlights the significant growth potential of fee-based cloud or mobile premium services such as news, financial data or games. Among those surveyed, 59% are aware of cloud or data storage services, and 78% of this group is willing to pay for cloud applications. There are even more takers for premium services, with 87% of the respondents willing to pay for them.
“This strong demand for mobile-based information, entertainment and social networking activities will require a considerable sustained investment in infrastructure upgrades,” said Mohr. “Companies need to react quickly, transform their operating models and use mobile and cloud-based customer relationship management technologies to keep pace with the changing demands of their customers.”
While the market for mobile Internet is expanding, data security and privacy remain major areas of concern for 79% of the consumers surveyed. Additionally, 95% of respondents said they view the cost of data connections as one of their top five criteria when selecting a carrier.
Some other results of the survey:
–Consumers want ubiquitous coverage, with a majority (89%) ranking network quality as the top criterion in the selection of a service provider, followed closely by geographic coverage (88%), connection speed (85%) and cost of service (81%).
–Mobile service usage is greatest among the younger population, with highest usage in the 14-19 age group at 82%, versus 81% for those 20-29 years old, 74% for those 30-39, 66% for those 40-49, and 45% of those 50 and older.
–More men (73%) are using mobile Internet than women (66%).
–Advertising on mobile devices is regarded as an annoyance, with 38% of respondents viewing ad banners as annoying and 37% finding advertising through texting annoying.
–More than 90% of the respondents are favorably inclined toward information on special offers, promotions and coupons, while 60% find such promotions entertaining.
–More respondents access the Web on a smartphone for personal matters (58%) than for work-related activities (20%).
The survey was conducted online in 13 countries, including Austria, Brazil, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, with 17,225 respondents. The annual online survey was conducted with a sample representative of Internet users across age, gender (51% men and 49% women) and incomes.
RBR-TVBR observation: Mohr has a good point on upgrading infrastructure. As these devices keep upping their processing power, making them as fast and powerful as a laptop or PC, it’s the cell towers that are going to have to handle that added use and bandwidth. If the infrastructure isn’t upgraded, high-demand times in some areas will mean slow or no internet/app service.