Data Consumption Powered the Mobile Space in Q3

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There’s no question that the recession has taken a serious toll on the mobile industry: Overall handset sales have declined, global growth is slowing and the low-margin prepaid segment is fueling much of whatever growth there is. But there are plenty signs of a resurgence, with mobile data — which has proven remarkably resilient over the last year — leading the way, as documented in our third-quarter wrap-up from GigaOM Pro (sub. required).

Smartphone sales continued to ramp up in the most recent three-month period, as OS developers and handset manufacturers remained engaged in an increasingly competitive battle for mid- to high-end users. Google’s Android enjoyed a strong quarter with several handset wins, including HTC’s commitment to dedicate more than 50 percent of its 2010 shipments to the platform. Apple’s iPhone continued its impressive momentum during the quarter and Palm’s webOS emerged as a worthy competitor in the OS space, while Nokia’s Symbian and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile slogged through another lackluster period.

But it was the surge in mobile data usage that attracted the attention of the investment community, which is demonstrating a renewed interest in mobile. Investors are particularly interested in mobile advertising, as evidenced by funding announcements from Nexage and Greystripe. And while it may not be the sexiest segment in mobile, infrastructure has once again become a crucial component: iPhone users have spotlighted the danger that exists when demand for mobile data weighs down networks, forcing carriers to invest more heavily in upgrading their infrastructures.

Perhaps the most important trend, though, is the buzz surrounding governmental regulation. A variety of agencies — including the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Justice and Congress — are looking closely at the mobile industry. The agencies are monitoring carriers and handset manufacturers for monopoly concerns and the legality of exclusive handset deals, which have become a mainstay of the industry. The mobile market is evolving rapidly, and the increasing willingness of regulation agencies to become involved in the industry will surely impact the space in the months ahead.

A more in-depth look at these trends and others is available in the latest Quarterly Wrap-ups in our five focus areas — NewNet, Mobile, Green IT, Connected Consumer, and Infrastructure. These quarterly reviews are available to GigaOM Pro subscribers, along with dozens of detailed research briefings and in-depth articles on specific topics in each of these areas. You can subscribe here.