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Number of U.S. Mobile Banking Users Surges 54% to 30 Million

Use of mobile apps grew 120% from 2009 to 2010; mobile browser and text banking usage are also growing. However, nearly half these users still say their preferred way to bank is online using a computer.

comScore yesterday released a report finding that in the fourth quarter of 2010, 29.8 million Americans accessed financial services accounts (bank, credit card or brokerage) via their mobile device, an increase of 54% from Q4 2009. However, the report also found that nearly half of these mobile banking users still prefer to bank online, at a fixed computer. The takeaway, in my view: consumers want it all -- the convenience of banking on their smartphone when they're out and about, the comfort of being able to handle more complex banking transactions at a home or office PC. Banks can't focus on one channel at the expense of another.

According to the report, the use of mobile applications is growing faster than the use of mobile browsers: 18.6 million users accessed their financial accounts via mobile browser in Q4 2010, up 58% from the previous year, and 10.8 million accessed their accounts via applications, up 120%. SMS (text message) represented the smallest access point for financial service audiences with 8.1 million users; this represents a rise of 35%.

But nearly half the mobile banking and credit card users surveyed prefer going online via a fixed device as the primary way to access their accounts, with 47% of mobile banking customers and 44% of mobile credit card users doing so. There is a segment of mobile-oriented consumers -- 36% of mobile credit card users and 26% of mobile banking customers indicated it is their primary method of accessing their accounts. Only a small segment of these users listed speaking with a representative in person or on the phone as their primary access method.

comScore also analyzed the reasons consumers cite for not using their mobile devices for financial activities. A preference for using a fixed online device topped the list for both smartphone and non-smartphone users at 53% and 45%, respectively. Security concerns were also rated highly among both smartphone users (33%) and non-smartphone users (30%). Perhaps not surprisingly, 29% of non-smartphone users stated cost as a reason for not accessing these accounts, while only 10% of smartphone users said the same thing (as unlimited data plans void this concern for many smartphone users). Twenty-six percent of smartphone users also indicated that slow connection speeds hindered their mobile financial service usage. Demonstrating the overall strong awareness of these services, only 6% of smartphone users and 5% of non-smartphone users stated not knowing about these services as a reason why they did not access these accounts.

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