comScore shares some interesting numbers on mobile device browsing trends today. Not counting social networking, the number of U.S. mobile phone owners that accessed the web for daily news and information more than doubled in the last year. The numbers tracked are between January 2008, which saw 10.8 million people on the mobile web, and January 2009, with 22.3 million daily mobile device web users.
Drilling down into the types of web activities over the past year, social networking is actually the fastest grower: this segment shows a 427 percent growth rate in daily users during the same time period. The No. 2 activity isn’t surprising considering the global economic slide. Accessing financial information or trading stocks was the runner up to social networking in terms of growth rates in the year. Maybe this is a one-two combination? I’ve seen my fair share of stock tips and financial commentary in FriendFeed and Twitter of late.
While comScore provides the trends and numbers, it’s up to us to figure out why the trends are what they are. My thoughts are threefold. First, the adoption rates of 3G data plans continues to rise. I’ve been using 3G since 2004, but back then, I was a geek in the minority. Today, I see folks accessing 3G networks on sub-smartphones as well as traditional 3G devices and I’m just a geek: no minority. Second, the combination of application stores and mobile friendly web sites are removing old barriers of entry to information. Major news outlets offer sites or apps that slim down the glitz and flash, but sill offer meaty amounts of useful data. The same holds true for financial data. In fact, my most oft-used third-party iPhone apps are USA Today and Mint.
Lastly, we’ve seen great maturity in mobile web browsers. Webkit-based browsers like that in Apple’s iPhone, Google Android and Palm’s upcoming Pre are more efficient than the handheld browsers some of us cut our teeth on five years ago. A number of server-side browsers optimize and compress web data before you see it. That speeds up the ability to view web info on the phone as well: Skyfire, Opera Mini and Bolt all come to mind in this area. These three factors are laying the groundwork. As companies realize the growing audience for mobile consumption, they’ll migrate their information in ways that make it even easier and faster. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see even higher growth rates over the next 12 months.