By Douglas A. McIntyre, 24/7 Wall St.

More Americans are using wireless devices, primarily smartphones and laptops, to access Web sites. The number jumped to 59% in May, up from 51% a year ago, according to the Pew Internet Study.

What those Americans did online may not have any commercial impact, but the phone users are likely to be having a good time. The greatest increase of use was for instant messaging and e-mail, which are not very profitable for wireless providers. Most cell phone plans have flat fees for these services, and consumers may object to advertisers' efforts to insert marketing material into these messages.

The number of wireless users who watch videos increased from 19% to 34% between the two periods, and the number of people who sent pictures rose from 66% to 76%. Again, it is hard to find a way to make these uses into commercial applications.

All of this leaves wireless subscriber companies -- including AT&T ( T), Verizon ( VZ) Wireless and Sprint-Nextel ( S) -- to contemplate where they can increase their profits from the evolving trends in 3G activity.
More from 24/7 Wall St.
10 Brands That Will Disappear in 2011
The 13 Housing Markets That Will Never Recover
The 20 Most Productive Nations in the World

All three companies will put 4G into the marketplace. Sprint is in the midst of the changeover to 4G now using WiMax technology. AT&T and Verizon will introduce their own products using LTE standards. The move to 4G will give customers access to wireless connections that are nearly as fast as those available through landline cable, but landline cable is primarily used for TV viewing and VoIP. The technology is, of course, a way for homeowners and businesses to access broadband.

Broadband use on wireless devices is likely to differ from traditional fixed line use. Most fast connections to the home or office are connected to TVs or PCs with relatively large screens. Those screens can be used to watch videos, shop online, and play sophisticated games. TV can be supported by pay-per-view fees generated by commercials.

It remains to be seen if large numbers of consumers find the tiny screen of a smartphone useful for video viewing and e-commerce applications. Also unknown is if people will use their phones for texting, but switch to their PCs and TVs to perform commercial transactions.

A lot more people own smartphones and use them for hours each day. Nonetheless, there is no convincing case yet that there is money to be made from current wireless consumer trends.
24/7 Wall St. is an independent financial news and and opinion Web site focused on the U.S. and global equity markets. The site covers topics ranging from stock and sector news and market commentary to financial analysis and industry research. 24/7 Wall St.'s articles are published by the leading financial networks, including TheStreet, Marketwatch, AOL's Daily Finance, Morningstar, Smart Money and Yahoo! Finance.