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Some mobile internet usage statistics

Published by Martin Kleppmann on 20 Feb 2008.

Mobile internet usage is one of those areas which is hyped a lot, but it’s actually pretty hard to lay your hands on some real figures detailing the number of users. In this week’s NMA, there’s an article by Tim Barber of Continental Research which gives a few useful figures to quote.

If you add up the figures, you see that there are currently a total of 7.4 million mobile internet users in the UK, which corresponds to 12% of all mobile phone users. I think that’s a pretty impressive figure already – it shows that mobile internet use isn’t just a toy for a small number of geeks, but it’s actually fast en route to mainstream adoption. (I don’t have an up-to-date growth figure, but I do know that from 2006–2007 the number of page views from mobile devices went up by 16%, according to the Mobile Data Association.)

Speaking of geeks, the data from Continental Research breaks the population into four rough categories: whether or not they are interested in technology, and whether or not they are interested in style. Considering just the former criterion:

  • Those interested in technology (the ‘geeks’) constitute 25% of mobile users, and of these people, 28% use the mobile internet. In this group, we therefore have 4.4 million mobile internet users.
  • Those not interested in technology constitute 75% of mobile users, and of these people, 6% use the mobile internet. In this group, we therefore have 3 million mobile internet users.

Spot something? A techie is 4 or 5 times more likely to use the internet on a mobile phone than a non-techie. However, the reality is that there are also 3 times as many non-techies as there are techies. This means they almost cancel out – right now, there are already plenty of people using mobile internet services even though they don’t care about gadgets and technology toys.

This is pretty good news: it shows that the general population has a genuine need which mobile internet access can address. It’s not just a toy, and we don’t simply use it just because we can. It’s actually something which can make our lives better.

Viewed in terms of Gartner’s Hype Cycle, right now, the mobile web and mobile internet are stepping out of the Trough of Disillusionment (into which they fell with the failure of WAP to match expectations) onto the Slope of Enlightenment.

I think this calls for a graph.

Graph showing the number of UK mobile phone and mobile internet users.