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The US mobile internet now has a large and diverse enough user base to support wide-scale mobile-marketing efforts, and mobile web users are 60% more likely than data users to be open to mobile advertising, according to a report (pdf) from Nielsen Mobile.

Among the report’s other key findings:

  • Mobile internet has reached a critical mass as an advertising medium in the US. In May 2008, there were 40 million active mobile internet users – a fraction of the 95 million US mobile users who subscribe to the service but do not necessarily use it, and a smaller fraction of the 259 million wireless users who are mobile data subscribers:

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  • The US, UK and Italy are leaders in mobile internet penetration, with 15.6% of mobile subscribers in the US, 12.9% of subscribers in the UK and 11.9% in Italy actively using the mobile internet; New Zealand (1.6%) and Indonesia (1%) have the lowest mobile internet penetration rates:

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  • The number of US subscribers who paid for mobile internet increased 28% between Q1 and Q1 2008 (from 74 million to 95 million). The number of monthly unique visitors increased 73% from May 2006.
  • 26% of mobile internet users recall seeing some form of advertising while using the mobile internet.
  • Unlimited data packages are growing more popular in the US: 14% of US wireless subscribers have unlimited data packages, and 50% of data users say they would prefer to have them.
  • The Motorola RAZR series phones are the most owned devices among mobile internet users in the US, followed by first-generation Apple iPhones, Research In Motion’s BlackBerry Pearl series, the BlackBerry 8700 series and Motorola’s Q series. Nokia phones are the most widely used by mobile internet users internationally.

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  • US carriers now market bundled data and voice services more often. In Q1 2008, the top carriers shifted a portion of their voice-only and data-only marketing dollars to advertisements that promoted both voice and data services. Advertising promoting both services accounted for 59 % of carrier advertising expenditures in 1Q08 (up from 52% in 1Q07).
  • 23% of US mobile data users expect to see more mobile advertising, and 32% are open to it if it helps to lower their wireless bills. Mobile internet users are also 60% more likely than the average data user to find mobile advertising acceptable.
  • 3G networks are improving the quality of the mobile web and will help drive up customer satisfaction. 3G networks perform up to six times faster on data throughputs used for mobile internet than 2G and 2.5G networks.
  • Yahoo Mail is the most popular mobile website in the US, with 14 million unique visitors per month, as of May 2008.
  • Longer battery life (38%), larger screen size (22%) and more memory capacity (21%) and better data inputs (20%) are among the most important features mobile internet users want on their devices.
  • Most mobile internet users seek out websites to visit. Some 40% say they find the sites through search engines; 22% say they type in the URL directly; 18% say they find sites through their favorite links; and 17% find the sites they visit through their carrier’s portals.

As of May 2008, the US mobile internet audience (age 13+) is about evenly split between those over the age of 35 (48%) and those under the age of 35 (52%) and is slightly more male than female.

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There are about as many teens using the mobile internet as there are people over age 55 (5.1 million age 13-17 and 4.4 million 55 and older).

“In order to fully realize the mobile internet marketing opportunity, agencies and brands need tools to plan targeted ad campaigns and track performance relative to other media channels,” the report said. “In addition to audience measurement that reports the reach, frequency and demographics attained by individual mobile websites, marketers need to locate their precise target audience with audience profiling data.”

About the research: Nielsen Mobile collects data on the mobile consumer and market and forms insights by surveying mobile subscribers worldwide, analyzing mobile bill behavior through an opt-in bill panel representing 50,000 US wireless lines, analyzing network voice one-million miles around the US, monitoring advertising expenditures and messaging of the leading US carriers and electronically metering the wireless activity of a panel of mobile phone users.

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