Nearly half of Internet users in the UAE used mobile phones to access the Internet, according to a survey released on Wednesday.
The survey was conducted by online marketing intelligence firm Effective Measures and Spot On Public Relations among 12,700 internet users across the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region.
Around 71 per cent of mobile Internet users in the region ranked email as their biggest mobile Internet activity.
"People are increasingly using mobiles as Internet access devices in the Middle East and are starting to access social networks as well as news, sport and other information services using their mobiles. The primary application for mobiles is still email, but over 85 per cent of users have downloaded mobile applications for their devices and the spread of services being accessed is very wide," said Brendon Ogilvy, VP Digital Insights of Effective Measure.
"Social networking, in particular, is a strong and growing trend, with 40 per cent of women who use the mobile Internet doing so to access social networks."
The survey showed some interesting differences in the way men and women in the region use their mobiles. Women were more active on social networking sites using their mobiles (40 per cent of women do, compared to 33 per cent of men) and were more interested in photo & video sharing and information on hobbies, while men were more interested in news and weather information. Women were also more likely to use online games than men.
"With a new generation of smart mobile devices coming to the market, more people are expanding the ways in which they access Internet based applications and services," said Carrington Malin, Managing Director of Spot On Public Relations. "The growing popularity of mobile applications that access internet services will create significant new market opportunities for not only hardware vendors, but also for Internet publishers, service providers and marketing organisations across the region."
47 per cent of Internet users surveyed said they intended to buy a tablet device in the coming quarter, while more of those already using the mobile Internet, 57 per cent, having the same plan. 22 per cent of all Internet users surveyed planned to buy an Apple iPad.
One of the key factors that has been inhibiting uptake of mobile Internet in the MENA region is cost. While 26 per cent of people who choose not to use mobile Internet cite cost as the primary factor, only 5 per cent say that not knowing how to access the Internet is stopping them. With smart phones using high amounts of data, it's hardly a surprise that something like 41 per cent of users in the GCC have unlimited data packages.
The survey was carried out between November 20 and December 5 2010 across over 300 websites in the Mena region.