Despite current economic conditions, 25% more Americans are using mobile phones for Internet access, email or instant messaging than a year ago, according to a new report released yesterday from the Pew Internet and American Life Program.

Forty percent of adults now use their mobile phones to access the Internet—up from 32% in 2009 according to the report, titled “Mobile Access 2010.”

The number of Americans who go online wirelessly using a laptop also increased according to the report—from 39% in 2009 to 47% in 2010. The survey did not break out what percentage of that total was for cellular rather than Wi-Fi connectivity.

Americans also are connecting to the Internet more frequently, the Pew study found. More than half (55%) of all mobile Internet users go online from their handheld devices on a daily basis, including 43% who do so several times a day. A year ago, just 36% of cellphone Internet users accessed the Internet daily, including 24% who did so several times a day.

Survey results indicate ‘across-the-board’ increases in usage of Internet applications via mobile devices from 2009 to 2010, including:

  • Taking pictures—76% now do this, up from 66% in April 2009
  • Sending or receiving text messages—72% vs. 65%
  • Accessing the internet—38% vs. 25%
  • Playing games—34% vs. 27%
  • Sending or receiving email—34% vs. 25%
  • Recording a video—34% vs. 19%
  • Playing music—33% vs. 21%
  • Sending or receiving instant messages—30% vs. 20%

It’s worth noting that the Pew survey was conducted between late April and late May of this year, prior to AT&T’s announcement that it would scale back on unlimited data plans.  It will be interesting to see what impact that important change from one of the two dominant U.S. wireless carriers will have on usage trends moving forward.

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