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Wi-Fi Hotspot Use Shifts from Laptops to Handhelds

More people are accessing Wi-Fi hotspots at cafes and airports via handheld devices, according to a new study from In-Stat. While, last year, devices like smartphones accounted for 20% of total connects to Wi-Fi hotspots, in 2009 that number jumped to 35%. And by 2011, smartphones should account for half of hotspot connects ?and challenge laptops’ dominance of Wi-Fi hotspots, In-Stat estimates.

It’s clear why this is happening: More smartphones feature built-in Wi-Fi capabilities. More carriers are promoting these features. More places, such as bookseller Borders, have recently made Wi-Fi access available for free. All that is contributing to increased use of hotspots with all devices. Hotspot usage has increased by 47%, to 1.2 billion connects in 2009, In-Stat estimates.

The findings may also indicate that people increasingly use their smartphones to do many of the things they used to reserve for their netbooks and laptops. The handsets are now larger than they were only several years ago, with easier-to-use keyboards and screens. So consumers increasingly find they can use them for everything from surfing the Web to typing e-mails to gaming. When tablets debut some time next year, they could further accelerate this shift from laptops and netbooks to handheld devices.

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