As smartphone and mobile web usage continues to soar, users are spending more and more time on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. But how is the mobile web impacting the oldest form of Internet communication, e-mail?
For desktop Internet users, e-mail may be playing second-fiddle to the likes of Facebook and social games like FarmVille, but on mobile devices, e-mail is still number one.
In fact, new research from The Nielsen Company suggests that e-mail represents 41.6% of mobile Internet time for users in the United States.
Putting that in perspective, if all mobile Internet time was condensed into one hour of usage, e-mail would represent 25 minutes of time spent.
In fact, mobile e-mail usage continues to grow, even as social media continues to become a bigger and bigger part of the mobile experience. Last fall, ExactTarget commissioned a study on smartphone Internet usage and found that the rise in social media adoption has lead to an increase in how much we e-mail from our mobile devices, and not the decrease many analysts were predicting.
Mobile E-mail is NOT Just for Business
It's easy to conflate mobile e-mail with business users, after all, this was the demographic that first fully embraced the ability to send and receive messages from their mobile devices.
Over the years, however, e-mail usage on mobile devices has become less about business and more about staying in touch with personal contacts. According to ExactTarget's research, 71% of business professionals with smartphones said that they send more personal e-mails than work-related missives from their mobile devices.
Don't let the business suit fool you next time you see a smartly dressed corporate type tapping away on their phone, chances are, they are probably e-mailing with friends.
Part of the reason we're seeing an increase in personal e-mail communication devices is because of the nature of mobile. Users are always connected to their inbox and thus, can always receive a message.
E-Mail for Breakfast and After Sex
As we noted earlier this summer, more than 50% of U.S. online users check their e-mail before doing anything else online.
When you consider that peak Internet usage often takes place around 7 a.m., it's not a stretch to say that many of us check our e-mail on our mobile phones before, well, stretching and getting out of bed.
It's not just when we wake up that we check e-mail; studies indicate that more and more individuals check e-mail in the middle of the night and even after sex.
Again, the always-connected nature and location-ambivalence of mobile devices makes it easier for users to check their message or jot off a quick note, whether it's the most appropriate time or not. I think we've all seen "that guy" at a solemn event like a funeral desperately trying to refrain from checking his BlackBerry during the service. Heck, some of us may even be that guy.
Is Social Media Eroding E-mail Usage?
Last year, Nielsen looked into what impact social media is having on e-mail usage. The results showed that there is a strong correlation between those who are frequent e-mail users and users that are also active across social media.
In fact, the study basically showed that social media makes users consume more e-mail, not less. Part of this is an effect of the e-mail nature of many social networks. Facebook, for instance, sends you an e-mail when you get a new wall post or someone sends you a message. Likewise, Twitter and Foursquare send you follower updates, and Twitter sends out direct message notifications.
Many blog comment systems can notify users when someone has responded to an article online, and services like Google Buzz bring commenting on social statuses or shared Google Reader items to the inbox.
We should note, however, that more and more users are starting to treat services like Facebook as replacements for an e-mail inbox. E-mail is still more versatile, but for users that have a heavily populated social graph, sometimes social networking services can offer a more convenient messaging experience.
Have your e-mail habits changed since buying a smartphone? Let us know in the comments!
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