Mobile internet usage triples over last year in Thailand

Mobile phones are widely tipped to become the primary access point for internet usage for many in developing regions, such as Asia, but to what extent is mobile internet used in the region?

Back in November, internet monitoring firm Pingdom released statistics showing that Asia was the top user of mobile internet, when compared  (proportionally) to fixed-line internet usage, but precious few reliable stats offer any insight into the actual numbers of mobile internet users in developing Asian markets.

According to a number of interesting statistics published by The Nation from the team behind Web Wednesday Thailand, which held its most recent event last week, mobile internet access has tripled with more than a third of fixed-line internet users now also using mobile.

The stats also suggest that access to the internet from mobile has tripled over the last twelve months, representing five percent of the total of desktop-based internet sessions:

In Thailand, according to StatCounter Global Stats, mobile Internet access compared to desktop has almost tripled in the past year from 1.73% to 5.06%. Recent statistics from Effective Measure show that 37.83% of the Thai online audience access mobile Internet.

The stats don’t mean that one third of Thai internet usage is mobile, rather that one third of those online use mobile internet, to some capacity. The stats are also unable to shed light on how many internet users access through mobile platforms only, but they do clearly indicate that mobile (feature phones, smartphones and tablets) are an increasingly significant access point in the country.

As the range of internet-ready devices increases, with more affordable options for budget users, we can expect the number of mobile internet users to also increase. The arrival of 3G may help raise awareness of mobile internet amongst those not currently using it, while the improved user experience may encourage greater usage amongst existing mobile internet subscribers.

Apps are seeing a sizeable growth in usage in Thailand as more Thais turn to iPhone, BlackBerry and Android smartphone devices. The following data comes from the Web Wednesday Thailand press release:

According to the iOS and Mac App analytics company APPlyzer, the top free iPhone/iPod App in Thailand on May 30th, 2011 was Talking Tom Cat 2 .The top paid app on the same date was WhatsApp Messenger. The company also reports the top free and paid apps for iPad in Thailand were Talking Tom Cat 2 and Plants vs. Zombies HD, respectively.

WhatsApp is a hugely popular application across both BlackBerry and Android users in Thailand, demonstrating just how widespread mobile instant messaging (IM) is across the country.

Given BlackBerry’s strong market position, its messaging service (BlackBerry Messenger, BBM) appears to be the most popular choice which has helped galvanise the company’s market position and popularity. As Android and iPhone users begin to increase however, cross-device apps like WhatsApp grow in appeal enabling users to contact friends on any type of device.

WhatsApp has the potential to succeed BBM as the most popular mobile IM client – which would have ramifications for BlackBerry’s market share – but, as points out, Apple’s recently announced iOS5 may spell trouble as the company’s own iMessage becomes the iPhone’s default chat platform,

However, fans of WhatsApp will be faced with a difficult decision to make once iOS 5 is released in September, as Apple’s iMessage attempts to emulate the core features of WhatsApp, but the key thing here is that iMessage will replace the current messaging app on the iPhone, so everyone is going to use it at some point.

Though iMessage, and many of the new introductions of iOS5, will undoubtedly encourage many Android and BlackBerry users to migrate to iPhone, might it’s lack of cross-platform support give some BlackBerry users more reason to hesitate, alongside the cost of the device, in the short-term?