When you've got a smartphone, you're always connected to the Internet. You can check the news, send off emails and shop, all from the comfort of your own pocket-PC. Until recently, I assumed that being permanently connected to the Internet was something that most people weren't yet ready to pay for or endure. I was wrong; 51% of mobile phone users access content from their phones on at least a weekly basis.
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What's really interesting is how often the average phone user uses his phone to access content. The 51% that have access to mobile content spent more time browsing the Internet and checking their email than the average user does texting (39 minutes as opposed to 38). They only spend a little less time surfing than they do talking (44 minutes).
Frank N. Magid Associates, the firm that carried out the study, found that users no longer view phones as purely or even primarily communications devices.
"...these adopters of the mobile lifestyle are using their phones to keep in touch with and manage the entertainment, news, and social information critical to their lives."
That's a pretty apt summary of the situation. We owe most of this new mobile content boom to the young folks. 80% of mobile social networking is done by 12-34 year olds. 72% of adolescents surveyed said they accessed mobile content weekly.
Mobile news media, on the other hand, is viewed by a much older demographic. 79% of mobile news viewers are between the ages of 18 and 54. This comes as no surprise; older people are always more willing news consumers than young folks.
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This study serves to illustrate the trend that we've seen developing since before the first iPhone was released. As the kids that have grown up enmeshed in the digital age get older and become consumers, they have a thirst for connectivity that manufacturers and carriers are only too eager to meet. I'd be willing to bet that within 5 years, virtually every mobile phone on the U.S. market will have at least some 'smartphone features', and it probably won't take more than a decade before we're all connected to the Internet wherever we go. It's pretty much inevitable.