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Smartphone Social Networking Surges

A 187% increase yields 18.3 million unique users in July

Although Smartphones come with a multitude of Web capabilities, consumers are more often than not using these mobile devices for social networking. Social networking usage on Smartphones has skyrocketed by 187 percent to 18.3 million unique users in July 2009, per Nielsen.

The increase, which nearly tripled the 6.4 users million seen in July 2008, allowed social networking sites to account for 32 percent of all Smartphone activity during the year. Facebook was the most popular social network with 14.7 million users, followed by MySpace (7.1 million) and Twitter (4.1 million). Overall, the three sites made up 26 percent, 13 percent and 7 percent of Smartphone users, respectively.

"Social networking is probably the most important thing going on with mobile devices because the devices lend themselves to more social networking activities," said Nielsen's Jon Stewart, research director for technology and search. "When you're sitting at your PC you're not going to necessarily be Twittering about sitting at your desk, but when you're out and about in the world, you're more likely to have content and experiences that you want to share."

Overall Smartphone subscribers increased year-over-year, as well. As of July 2009, national mobile subscribers jumped 72 percent to 277 million. Almost one quarter of all mobile device purchases over the last year were Smartphones.

In terms of activity, 60 percent participated in text messaging, 31 percent used multimedia messaging, and 25 percent used the Internet. One-in-four (40 percent) reported downloading audio, apps or games, and 7 percent watched video via the Web.

Search increased by 113 percent, while news and current events (up 57 percent), banking/online trading (up 55 percent) and entertainment (up 51 percent) also grew significantly.

The main drivers behind the growth in Smartphone activity were technology improvements and pricing drops, which have increased the overall user experience, according to Stewart. And the upcoming array of mobile devices, including android and Windows mobile devices, that will compete with the iPhone and Blackberry will allow the market to continue to in its rapid expansion.

"Smartphones still only account for a relatively small percentage of the overall mobile subscriber base," said Stewart. "People are not willing to invest a lot of money for something that they already have, but if people get excited about new generations of phones that are coming out, and the fact that prices are falling...there's still a lot of growth opportunity. I don't think we've seen any type of saturation at all."

Sales & Marketing Management is a unit of the Nielsen Co.