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Survey: Social networking is fastest-growing mobile content category

comScore, Inc. has released a report on the fastest-growing mobile application and browser content categories based on data from its MobiLens service. The report found that social networking led as the top-gaining category for both application and browser access, confirming the surging popularity of this service on mobile devices.

The study also found that accessing bank accounts was one of the fastest-gaining categories via both app and browser, as the convenience of mobile banking continues to appeal to a growing number of consumers.

“With mobile media consumption on the rise, the discussion of how consumers are accessing content — whether it is via application, browser or both — continues to be an important factor for companies looking to invest further in their mobile brands,” said Mark Donovan, comScore senior vice president of mobile. “Although application access is clearly on the rise, with several categories more than doubling their audience via this method, content consumption via browser continues to be the most popular method for Americans to access mobile media.”

In terms of penetration, 78% of smartphone users accessed their browsers in April 2010, while 80% of smartphone users accessed applications. (A smartphone is a mobile device with RIM, Apple, Microsoft, Google, Palm, or Symbian operating system.) In comparison, just 19% of feature phone users accessed their browsers, with 17% accessing applications. Although smartphone users are driving growth in browser (up 111% in the past year) and application (up 112%) access, feature phone users still make up nearly half of all users accessing mobile browsers and apps.

“Although growth in application usage on smartphones continues to grab the spotlight in the mobile market, the audience using their mobile browser remains larger and is growing just as quickly,” added Donovan. “Brands need to remember to take into consideration the user experience across both channels when building their mobile strategies.”

In April 2010, 69.6 million mobile users accessed an application on their phone, an increase of 28% from the previous year. Several application categories experienced triple-digit growth in the past year, emphasizing the increasing popularity of this method as a form of mobile content access. Social networking experienced the strongest growth in app access, increasing 240% to 14.5 million users. Accessing News apps followed, growing 124% to 9.3 million users, while Sports Information apps experienced a 113% surge to nearly 7.7 million users. Bank Accounts apps also more than doubled their audience, growing to nearly 5 million users in April.

Browsers still favored

Nearly 73 million mobile users accessed their browser in April, an increase of 31% from the previous year. Mirroring application category growth, Social Networking ranked as the fastest-growing category accessed via browser, growing 90% from the previous year to reach almost 30 million users, followed by Bank Accounts (69% to 13.2 million users). Online Retail sites also experienced a significant increase in audience usage via browser, increasing 47% to 7.3 million users, as Americans continued to show adoption of the mobile retail channel.

Donovan continued, “Social networking is by far the fastest-growing mobile activity right now. With 20% of mobile users now accessing social networking sites via their phone, we expect to see both application and browser usage continuing to drive future consumption of social media.”

comScore will be hosting a complimentary Webinar, The State of the Mobile: A Fragmented Reality? on Wednesday, June 9 at 2 p.m. EDT. For more information and to register for this Webinar, visit https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/665260201


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