Snapshot of Mobile Internet Usage
Snapshot of Mobile Internet Usage

Snapshot of Mobile Internet Usage

Snapshot of Mobile Internet Usage

An interesting mobile user survey has been posted on the Research+ site, which is run by iBridge KK (Japanese only). The survey includes responses from 1,000 respondents of all ages, from teens to 60-years-and-older, and focused on mobile data usage. It appears that lots of Japanese use the mobile Internet at least somewhat while a few use it quite a lot… And upon such tenuous results DoCoMo et al have built empires. Meanwhile, the police find that bad kids use too much data.

The survey was conducted 3-4 June 2004:

Only the overall results are given in the public survey; the detailed breakdown between genders requires registration (which I did, but no response came from the company as of press time). Also, there is no information as to whether respondents were users of DoCoMo, KDDI, Vodafone, or other carriers. Nonetheless, the results provide an interesting snapshot of current mobile Internet usage in Japan.

Question 1 asked: “How often do you utilize and view mobile Web contents?” (my own rough translation from original Japanese, aided by Babelfish). This question of frequency is always interesting and, surprisingly, 12.5 percent of respondents (157) said they do not own a mobile phone or do not have mobile Internet capability on their phone.

Consider that, according to the Telecommunications Carriers Association, there are 82,330,100 mobile users in Japan (as of May 31), meaning that roughly 68 percent of the population are users — implying that 32 percent of the population are non-users.

Do the present Research+ survey results under-report non-usage? Or perhaps teens, 20-year-olds, and 30-year-olds are all much more likely to be users and since these represent 734 out of 1,000 survey respondents, the survey is skewed towards users.

Also, Q1 results indicate that more than half of the respondents, 58.5 percent, access the mobile Internet at least 1-3 times per month, thus implying that about half access the mobile Internet at least weekly. Only 16.3 percent could be termed heavy users — those who access the mobile Internet once or more per day.

From such modest usage DoCoMo, et al, have built empires!

Q1 Full Results
There’s no big news here and these results largely mirror what all carriers have been reporting over the past several years. Also, it looks like starting any sort of education-related i-mode or EZWeb content offering might be somewhat hopeless.

Question 3, however, is much more interesting.

It asked, “How did you find the contents referenced in Q2?” This sort of information is not commonly mentioned in reports on Japan’s mobile Internet and the fact that virtually 50 percent of respondents said they found the content they used the most via the carriers’ official menus points to the extreme importance of being an official content provider or at least having your content mentioned/linked there.

How do providers get their content mentioned? First, all carriers operate in-house content sites; on NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode, it’s the “Weekly iGuide” site, updated each Monday. These are independent editorial sites that review and profile new providers, new content offerings, new contests, new campaigns, etc. (Well, they’re as independent as any other in-house publication; none of them will actually opine that some new content offering or other stinks…)

Second, all operate advertorial sites (called “Toku” sites; toku means beneficial) where providers can pay to have their new marketing campaigns and contests reviewed and promoted. These are not editorially independent and are actually operated by the carriers’ mobile advertising agencies (D2 Communications for i-mode, A1adNet for EZWeb, and Japan Mobile Communications for Vodafone live!).

Q3 also seems to indicate that TV is not a strong channel for promoting mobile content. I wonder if this will change with Vodafone’s new TV keitais or with the start of digital terrestrial and satellite broadcasting (by 2005 and this month, respectively)?

Q3 Full Results
Without reviewing the rest of the survey in detail, it’s worth asking how relevant are the results of Q1, 2, and 3? That’s hard to say. One recent posting on the Keitai-L mobile developer mail list stated:

While I don’t have the actual statistics for usage, I imagine that the actual figure of people that use i-mode is far lower. Many of my friends (Japanese and foreign) don’t use any of the features that i-mode provides. The only thing you can almost guarantee people will use is email. School kids seem to be far happier using i-mode services [and] occasional Web sites; some play games and a lot of i-melody too.

Contrast this account with frequent media reports of teens who run up massive (data) phone bills and DoCoMo’s move more than a year ago to install call- and data-limiting functions on phones (so parents can control kids’ usage), and it’s clear that while not everyone uses their cell phone often, at least some use it a lot.

Overall, the results of Q2 probably paint a reasonably accurate picture: about 50% of Japanese (who have data-capable phones) use their phone for mobile Internet at least once per week.

And speaking of kids as heavy users, note this recent report from Kyodo, which cited a June 24 National Police Agency survey which found that students either arrested or taken into custody for misbehavior or suspected crimes make far more calls and send more email messages from their cell phones than their well-behaved peers.

Looks like bad kids overuse mail and Web and bankrupt their parents, while good kids send less mobile mail and don’t (quite) bankrupt their parents.

— Daniel Scuka

NB: Thanks to KC for the link to the Research+ survey in his Keitai-L post, June 23.