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SMS more popular than taking photos, online browsing: Pew Research

SMS is a global phenomenon with 75 percent of mobile phone owners across 21 countries saying they text, according to a new report from Pew Research.

In comparison, 50 percent said they take pictures and video with their mobile phones, while only 23 percent said they browse the Internet. The report points to the value that marketers can provide through SMS, which can be an important tool for reaching as wide an audience as possible via mobile and engaging in a one-to-one dialogue with new and existing customers.

Mobile phones are owned by a large majority of people in most major countries around the world and are increasingly used for more than just phone calls, according to the report. However, text messaging more so than some of the other activities is widely embraced around the world.

Use varies by country
According to Pew, mobile phones are owned by overwhelmingly large majorities of people in most major countries around the world and they are used for much more than just phone calls.

In particular, SMS is a global phenomenon.

While it is important to not overwhelm customers with messages ? and risk turning them off ? SMS can be used effectively to build a mobile opt-in database that will provide important customer data that can be harvested to support a brand?s marketing strategies.

The report, Global Digital Communication: Texting, Social Networking Popular Worldwide, found that in 19 of the 21 countries surveyed, a majority of mobile phone owners regularly send text messages.

In the United States, 67 percent send text messages, 57 percent take pictures or video and 43 percent use the Internet.

There is some variation by country, with 43 percent of mobile phone owners in the U.S. using their device to go online and 72 percent of Japanese mobile phone owners using their phones to take pictures or video.

In none of the countries surveyed, do a majority use their mobile phones regularly to access the Internet.

People under the age of 30 as well as college graduates tend to use their devices for more purposes than older consumers. In nearly all the countries surveyed, consumers ages 18-29 said that they are more likely than those 50 or older to access the Internet on their mobile phone.

In the U.S., 73 percent of 18-29-year-olds use their mobile phones for the Internet, compared with 49 percent of 30-49-year-olds and 21 percent of users over the age of 50.

Young consumers also are more likely to use their mobile phones for SMS and taking pictures.

There is also a variation in mobile phone use by education level.

In the U.S., 53 percent of mobile phone owners with a college degree use their phone to go online, while only 39 percent of those without a college degree go online via their devices.

Gender differences in use were less common when it comes to measuring technology use, per Pew.

Social networking reaches far
The report also found that social networking is popular in many nations around the globe.

However, percentage of adults using social networking sites is determined in part by the prevalence of Internet use and is connected to a country?s wealth.

In the U.S., 50 percent of the consumers surveyed say they use social networking sites. In Britain and Russia, 43 percent of consumers use social networking sites while in Spain, 42 percent use social networking sites.

The survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center?s Global Attitudes Project.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York