Google rules the phone; U.S. lags in mobile data

October 23, 2006, 6:57 AM UTC
Fortune

New research from comScore shows that in the United States, cell phones users are less likely to use their phones to get online – but if they do, they’re spending a lot of time on Google and other search engines.

In a report datelined London, comScore Networks indicates that three in four U.S. mobile Web users visited Google, Yahoo, MSN or a similar site. In Europe, where mobile data users seem to be more numerous and more sophisticated, far fewer people spent time with search engines and portals, but Google proved the most popular of the bunch.

The numbers suggest that all over the world, wireless carriers will have a fight on their hands. The carriers have spent years trying to keep mobile users in a bubble, and control their access to the Internet. They’ve largely succeeded in keeping a hold on customers; comScore’s numbers show that the carriers have some of the most visited mobile Web sites worldwide.

But carriers should take scant comfort in that. As we learned with the PC-based Internet, services like AOL managed to keep consumers walled in for a while, but as they grew more savvy about the online experience and got more access options, they ditched the limitations of the “walled garden” environment, and opted to explore through Google.

Just to underscore that point, Google last week unveiled a mobile version of Google News for customers in India.