3GS to Cause Another Bump in Mobile Web Traffic

Apple’s much awaited iPhone 3GS has shipped and will be available in stores tomorrow. Some pre-orders have already been fulfilled, and the iPhone 3.0 software upgrade was released yesterday (compatible with previous version iPhones). Needless to say, the news media and blogosphere have been abuzz over the second coming of the iPhone 3G.

We’ve been light on coverage of the 3GS because many of its features, though notable, don’t have a lot of direct ties to mobile local search. The mapping and location awareness baked into the new version of the Safari mobile Web browser do have important implications though (see SEW column).

I discovered another interesting angle last night (via GigaOm): The improved capabilities of the 3GS and the new 3.0 software will bump up mobile Web use. Usage gains will come from increased iPhone sales as well as existing iPhone owners accessing the mobile Web with greater frequency. Don’t forget, the iPhone accounts for the majority of mobile Web traffic happening today.

Specifically, Chetan Sharma predicts that the iPhone 3GS will increase mobile Web users 1.5x to 2x over current levels. He supports this by pointing to the increase in mobile Web use in Europe after the releases of the last two iPhones.

IPhone aside, competitive pressures will continue to drive innovation and pricing that make smartphones more mainstream friendly. Palm Pre’s availability for 80 million Verizon subscribers at the beginning of next year, and a continued march of new smartphones (see latest T-Mobile Dash) will ensure this. Google has already stated publicly that Android will power at least 20 new devices by the end of the year.

Get ready for the smartphone wars.

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