Mobile Surf's Up
The mobile Web has long been thought of as the next step for the Internet. Location-based services, micro communications and instant picture sharing could potentially revolutionise the way the public interacts with the Web and the way they communicate with each other.
Although there are still issues regarding awkward interfaces and small screens, the number of people in the UK who access the Internet on their mobile phone is on the rise.
US leads the way
According to research by Nielsen Mobile, the UK is second only to the US in the percentage of mobile users who use the Web on the move.
Around 12.9 per cent of mobile phone subscribers use the Web, compared to the US, where 15.6 per cent of users (around 40 million) access the Internet while in transit.
Interestingly, it was found that roughly 95 million phone users are paying for mobile Web access but did not use the service.
Italy and Spain have the highest mobile Internet use in Europe after the UK, with 11.9 per cent and 10.8 per cent respectively.
Of the 16 countries surveyed by the analyst firm, Indonesia had the lowest take up. Only 1.1 per cent of mobile owners accessed the Web there.
The most popular uses for accessing the mobile Web were to check email, visit social networking sites and carry out bank transactions. Well known brands such as Yahoo and Google were the most popular sites overall.
There were also some significant differences in the browsing habits between users of PCs and mobile phones. PC Internet users generally visited much more domains per month. On average, PC Internet users visited more than 100 different domains per month, while mobile Web surfers in the US averaged 6.4. In the UK this figure was slightly less at 5.5.
Mobile Web users interact with ads
UK mobile Web users are 60 per cent more likely to interact with online marketing messages than the average user, paving the way for potentially new forms of advertising.
Mobile marketing is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Mobile phone operators are looking at using a number tactics to target consumers.
"Banners only utilise one type of inventory, where an operator can utilise different and more appealing inventories, such as voice, Mobile TV, SMS and MMS, to maximise the revenue potential from an advertising campaign," said Kostas Papoutsis, Director of Mobile Services, Velti - a mobile marketing company.
"Messaging applications remain the most popular due to their simplicity but the use of WAP-based applications is on the increase. Rich mobile media, like mobile TV and video, has the potential to grow to be one of the most dominant applications in the industry due to the appealing and engaging content format.
"The analysts MultiMedia Intelligence think the overall market for mobile TV and video is going to be enormous, as big as $15 billion in revenue worldwide by 2012, up from a projected figure of $3.5 billion in 2008. Then we also have sponsored P2P services like voice or messaging, which are a differentiating factor, especially for the youth market," he continued.
Nielsen attributed the growth to a combination of higher speed networks, more user friendly phones and better pricing models.
Mobile Web still needs work
However, Nielsen warned that the technology did not yet meet the demands of the consumer. Operators and connection speeds still needed improving if the mobile Web is to meet the expectations of the consumer.
Businesses too, are still failing to see the potential of the mobile Web. In a survey conducted by mobile Web site specialists, dotMobi and digital agency, AKQA it was found that of the 80,000,000 .com / .net / .org sites tested, only 0.03% are optimsed for mobile handsets.
Price comparison site, Kelkoo has recently launched an optimised version of its shopping and price comparison website for mobile use. Kelkoo Mobile has been completely re-shaped to ensure it fits any screen, even on the smallest of handsets. Content on has been streamlined to enable faster browsing on the smaller platform, but still has all the same features found on kelkoo.co.uk including product comparison and user reviews.
According to Bruce Fair, managing director, Kelkoo UK, the initial usage figures show that consumers are open to this new retail channel and that users are not just briefly checking products they are actually spending a significant amount of time browsing the site.
"More and more people are regularly browsing the Web from their mobiles and it is important that they can get fast and easy access to the sites they rely on when surfing the web from their mobile. Whilst our most popular searches are larger purchases including TVs, white goods and even cars, our initial trials have shown people using the mobile service to compare smaller items such as cosmetics and clothes when out on the high street," said Fair.
Surf the Web for free
One company that hopes to capitalise on the increasingly popularity of the mobile Web is PocketSurfer. With no contract or monthly fee, the company offers free Internet on the move upon purchase of the product and hopes to make the mobile Web a more mainstream proposition.
Costing around £180, the hand held device has a full QWERTY keyboard and keeps all web pages designed as they were intended.
"There are some major differences between mobile phones and PocketSurfer, apart from the fact that PocketSurfer is not a phone, said Richard Mower, VP Marketing and Partnerships, PocketSurfer
"PocketSurfer is backed by a patented data compression and acceleration technology, which allows end-users to experience a faster, richer mobile internet experience by sending less data through standard GPRS mobile data signals to the PocketSurfer," he continued.
The mobile Web has already proven a staple of many people's Internet usage. However, businesses still have some catching up to do if they are to utilise this channel effectively.