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Adoption of smartphones drives mobile search usage: Study

The popularity of Apple's iPhone, RIM's BlackBerry, the T-Mobile G1 with Google and other smartphones are driving an increase in mobile local search activity -- a huge opportunity for marketers.

According to the latest Mobile Market View, a consumer study of U.S. mobile phone users conducted by The Kelsey Group with research partner ConStat, 18.9 percent of mobile consumers now use a smartphone. Among those surveyed, 49.2 percent plan to purchase an advanced mobile device within the next two years.

"We are seeing smartphones come on like gangbusters -- we're seeing tremendous energy in smartphone growth and adoption," said Steve Marshall, director of research and consulting for The Kelsey Group, San Francisco. "We are seeing two brands dominate the smartphone space so far -- BlackBerry and iPhone.

"We're also seeing very strong increase in the usage of robust communications features such as text messaging and email," he said. "We're seeing strong growth in the use of Internet browsers and separate data plans for Internet access in the mobile space.

"We're seeing commercial search becoming mainstream for the first time on mobile devices, with a particular focus on travel and entertainment, and in general, we've seen a sea change in attitudes and usages about Internet access from mobile devices."

Corresponding with the rapid consumer adoption of smartphones is a marked increase in the level of mobile search activity.

Smartphones are now becoming mainstream platforms for commercial usage.

According to the Mobile Market View study, mobile consumers performed the following activities using their mobile devices during the past six months:

-- Downloaded or looked at maps or directions: 17.6 percent, up from 10.8 percent in 2007.

-- Searched the Internet for products or services in their local area: 15.6 percent, up from 9.8 percent in 2007.

-- Searched the Internet for products or services outside their local area: 14.3 percent, up from 6.4 percent in 2007.

-- Obtained information about movies or other entertainment: 13.7 percent, up from 8.2 percent in 2007.

-- Connected with a social network, such as MySpace or Facebook: 9.6 percent, up from 3.4 percent in 2007.

Findings from Mobile Market View indicate a growth rate of mobile Internet users that is in line with The Kelsey Group's U.S. Mobile Advertising Forecast: 2007-2012 (September 2007).

That study projected mobile Internet users would grow at a compound annual growth rate of 19 percent through 2012.

According to the latest Mobile Market View findings, the percentage of mobile users who access the Internet from their mobile devices increased from 32.4 percent in 2007 to 38.9 percent in 2008, an annual growth rate of 20 percent.

The future of mobile local search and advertising will be among the topics explored at The Kelsey Group's upcoming "Interactive Local Media 2008" conference, or ILM:08, Nov. 19-21, 2008, in Santa Clara, California.

ILM:08 is The Kelsey Group's annual conference devoted to digital media with a local focus.

Mobile Market View is a tracking study of mobile user behavior conducted by The Kelsey Group and research partner ConStat.

The second wave of the study was conducted in October 2008 via an online 39-question survey of 512 U.S. mobile phone users aged 18 and older.

The first wave of the study was conducted in September 2007.

BIA Advisory Services LLC, a subsidiary of BIA Financial Network, provides research, data, analysis and financial and strategic consulting to media, telecommunications, technology, directory publishing and local search companies.

The Kelsey Group, a division of BIA Advisory Services LLC, is a provider of research, data and strategic analysis on directories, small-business advertising, online local media, vertical market advertising and mobile advertising.

As an analyst firm covering the directory publishing community and the emerging local search marketplace, The Kelsey Group provides advisory services such as The Kelsey Report and Interactive Local Media and Marketplaces, publishing such as Global Yellow Pages, consulting with more than 400 individual assignments and conferences with 73 events.

"We're still at an early stage as far as mobile advertising and marketing, but it's in a rapidly evolving state of development," Mr. Marshall said. "The latest generation of smartphones represents a great leap in standardizing the mobile commercial platform, which was probably the largest single barrier."

The second generation of Web-enabled phones have larger screens, QWERTY keyboards -- whether physical or virtual -- and high bandwidth connection speeds.

"With the adoption of advanced mobile phones, the technological hurdle for robust mobile advertising has largely been overcome," Mr. Marshall said. "Now it's more a matter of advertisers identifying optimal market segments for mobile marketing.

"We're seeing that already in some of the travel and entertainment categories, such as restaurants," he said. "Mobile provides the opportunity for the marketer to be ever-present, to be immediate and present in the consumer's daily routine, and it is a natural and valuable extension of traditional local search."