In the Philippines, mobile internet use is on the rise. It is growing fast on the back of the rising popularity of smartphones, tablets and other non-computer Web-enabled devices.
Mobile internet revenues of wireless operators like Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) for example doubled from half a billion last year to P1.1 billion as of September 2011.
The developments here are in line with trends overseas. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker released last week , the worldwide smartphone market grew 42.6% year on year in the third quarter of 2011.
“This explosive increase in mobile Internet usage among our subscribers indicates that as smartphones become more pervasive, more affordable and easier to use, more Filipinos use it to access the Internet and social media,” said Chief Wireless Advisor Orlando B. Vea.
The report also cited manufacturers such as Samsung, Apple, Nokia, HTC, and Research in Motion shipping an estimated 118.1 million units within the period. A quick check on Asia Pacific trends suggests that global growth is being driven by spikes in the region.
A recent report from Google for example identifies Australia, which recently hit 37% smartphone penetration, as second in the world only to tech-loving Singapore – where 62% of the population own a smartphone.
Moreover, Indonesia is now second only to TV as a preferred channel for media consumption, a trend largely driven by the increasing availability of low-cost smartphones.
In the Philippines, Vea says the mobile internet is still in its early days. In the case of Smart, for example, about three million subscribers account for the bulk of mobile internet usage.
Potential for Growth
Over the past year, Smart has stepped up its efforts to promote smartphone adoption and usage. To this end, the telco has offered increasingly affordable data usage rates, and promoted access to the Internet in bite-sized chunks, via apps.
“We have a lot of headroom for growth. There are around two million more subscribers with 3G feature phones or smartphones who are not yet regularly accessing the web on the go. Plus, there are another 15 to 16 million subscribers with Web-capable feature phones who we hope to migrate to smartphones that offer a better internet experience,” Vea explained.
Smart’s most recent smartphone offering, the Android-powered, Netphone-edition Samsung Galaxy Y is flying off the shelves, driven by its affordable price and the built-in ‘SmartNet’ suite of free-of-charge, always-on social networking apps.
According to the analysis and commentary site 24/7 Wall St. , the Philippines now tops the list of countries where Facebook is the number one most visited website, beating even Google.
“Mobile connectivity has gone beyond being able to just call and text. Filipinos are intensely social. With social media penetration rate at 95%, virtually every Filipino that has access to the Web is on Facebook too,” added Vea.
The country is also the eighth most popular country for Twitter use on a global scale, with a penetration rate of 16.1%. Social networking is so popular among Filipinos, the country has been called ‘the Social Networking Capital of the World’.
Of Facebook’s more than 800 million active users, about 350 million access the site through their mobile devices while about 55% of Twitter’s more than 100 million active monthly users access the microblogging site via mobile .
*Based on press release from Smart