Mobile phone e-mail use jumps 36%

ComScore study also finds decline in Web-based e-mail on laptops, desktops

As the number of smartphones continues to grow, e-mail usage on mobile phones is also soaring and has become mainstream in the U.S., according a study by ComScore.

ComScore found that mobile phone and smartphone e-mail usage jumped 36% in the three months ending in November 2010, compared to the same period a year earlier. That meant 70.1 million mobile users used e-mail at least once in a month. Meanwhile, the number of people who used e-mail almost every day increased by 40% over the same period to 43 million users.

A ComScore spokeswoman said the findings refer to both e-mail accessed through a browser or through an application such as Exchange on a mobile phone or smartphone. The findings did not include laptops or tablets.

Over the same period, ComScore also found a 6% decline in the number of unique visitors to Web-based e-mail sites from desktop computers and laptops. The number of minutes and pages viewed this way also declined. ComScore did not study e-mail application usage such as Exchange on desktops and laptops.

Mark Donovan, ComScore senior vice president for mobile, said that having so many ways to communicate on so many devices means a decline in Web-based e-mail use on desktops and laptops isn't surprising.

Mobile e-mail has reached about 78% of the smartphone population, Donovan said.

ComScore found that users between 25 and 34 years old were 60% more likely to access mobile e-mail than the average user, while those between 18 and 24 were 46% more likely to do so. Men were 14% more likely than women.

The data was collected through ComScore's Media Matrix service, which collects online behavior from two million people who opt-in and compares that information with server data. The data also relies on ComScore's MobiLens service data, which is developed from a survey of more than 12,000 people per month.

Intermedia, which provides hosted Exchange services for businesses, has noticed the trend toward mobile e-mail. Of nearly 300,000 customers using its service in a study last September, Intermedia said almost half used iPhones, while one-fourth used BlackBerry devices and 13% used Android devices.

"Our customers increasingly need [e-mail and related contact functions] not just on one device but two or more devices per employee, like a BlackBerry and an iPad," said Intermedia COO Joonathan McCormick in an e-mail.

McCormick said business users with mobile devices should be able to replicate the key features of a desktop e-mail experience, including e-mail synchronization, scheduling and accepting calendar invites, and the ability to access contact information from both the mobile contacts list and desktop address list.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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