February 14, 2011, 3:06 PM

Nearly half of mobile subscribers are browsing the web or using apps, comScore says

And mobile visits to online retail sites increased 53% from December 2009 to December 2010.

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2010 was a year of great progress in the mobile realm: A wide variety of increasingly advanced devices were introduced, mobile content options continued to increase with an ever-growing library of apps paired with improvements to mobile browsing, while the definition of the word “mobile” evolved with the introduction of tablet computers such as the iPad, says a new report from web and mobile web research and measurement firm comScore Inc.

In December 2010 47% of mobile subscribers in the U.S. were mobile media users, meaning they browsed the mobile web, accessed apps, downloaded content or accessed the mobile Internet via text message, says comScore’s report, “Mobile Year in Review 2010.” That’s up 7.6 percentage points from 39.4% in December 2009.

“The growth in mobile media usage is largely attributable to the growth in smartphone adoption, 3G and 4G device ownership, and the increasing ubiquity of unlimited data plans, all of which facilitate the consumption of mobile media,” the report says. “From December 2009 to December 2010, the percentage of mobile phone subscribers with unlimited data plans increased from 21.3% to 29.0%, with more phones now requiring an unlimited data plan subscription at the time of purchase. During the same period, smartphone ownership increased from nearly 17% to 27%.”

There are now 63.2 million smartphone subscribers in the U.S., and 48% of all types of mobile phones can browse the web, the report finds. The report is based on a survey of 10,000 mobile phone owners.

Mobile commerce has seen a significant uptick as the number of smartphone owners and the number of consumers browsing the web from their phones have increased. ComScore says from December 2009 to December 2010 there has been a 53% increase in the number of visitors to online retail sites—e-commerce and m-commerce—via mobile devices.

When it comes to mobile phone purchases in 2010, Apple Inc. reigned supreme. Apple’s iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 came in first and second, respectively. They were followed by the BlackBerry Curve 8530 in third, the LG Cosmos in fourth, and the Motorola Droid—which runs Google Inc.’s Android operating system—in fifth.

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