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Mobile browsing becoming mainstream

An increase in cell phone ownership, and use of wireless services by those over 35, may lead cell phones to dominate.

A global increase in cell phone ownership and a rise in the use of wireless services by people over 35 may lead cell phones to dominate Web browsing, a new study says.

Ipsos Insight's 2005 "The Face of the Web" study shows significant increases in: ownership of mobile phones, mobile surfing by mainstream users, and adoption of wireless mobile technology by adults aged 35 and older.

90 percent of households in Japan, South Korea and urban China own cell phones, as do 80 percent of households in Western Europe, 60 percent in Canada and three out of four households in the U.S.

In 2005, 28 percent of those mobile phone owners used their phone to browse the Internet, up from 25 percent the year before. More significantly, the increase is driven by adults aged 35 and older joining younger users in this habit.

"This older age group is really starting to explore more on their cell phone and getting comfortable. Whether it's text messaging, e-mailing or Internet browsing, our research has found that they are using their cell phones for more than just voice calling," Adam Wright, a senior research manager at Ipsos Insight, told CNET

27 percent of adults aged 35 to 54 who are living in households with cell phones claim to have browsed the Internet on their phone. Only 21 percent of them did in 2004, according to Wright. Twelve percent of those 55 and older also engage in mobile browsing.

These statistics have significant implications for "m-commerce" (the mobile equivalent of e-commerce) in that older demographics traditionally have more spending power as consumers. These groups also showed the largest growth.

Cell phone owners aged 18 to 34, while still the largest adopters of Web browsing, did not grow from their 36 percent.

By country, France and the U.S. showed the most growth for browsing from a wireless device. Japan closely followed. Four out of 10 Japanese cell phone owners do mobile browsing; double the number in 2003.

The study also found a correlation between comfort with cell phone use and comfort with the Internet. In 10 out of 12 global markets studied, 90 percent of people who had accessed the Internet in the last 30 days owned cell phones.