SAN JOSE, California Google Inc has seen a spike in usage of its mobile services since May, partly offsetting the traditional summer slump in computer-based Web surfing for the first time, an executive said on Wednesday.
"We are seeing more and more mobile activity," Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of search products, told a Web marketing conference in Silicon Valley.
Traffic to Google's maps, e-mail and mobile searches on mobile phones and wireless handheld devices rose 35 percent between May and June. That reversed the previous annual pattern in which both mobile phone and computer use declined, the Google official said.
The much anticipated U.S. launch of Apple Inc's iPhone Internet phone in late June led to a jump of 40 percent to 50 percent in use of Google Maps on mobile phones, according to Mayer, Google's vice president of search.
Google Maps is one of the handful of featured applications on the iPhone.
Mobile use remained high into August, even as overall traffic searches surged then fell in the summer months. The traffic traditionally drops by 20 percent to 40 percent between May and June, as computer users in the Northern Hemisphere go on vacation.
"I think this is sort of a sign that people are becoming savvier with their mobile devices, and that there are better devices" available for the Web, while away from computers, Mayer told reporters after a presentation to marketers at the Search Engine Strategies Conference in San Jose.
"The technology curve is catching up," she told reporters after the presentation. "The phones are just better."
While the numbers of mobile users of Google search services remain tiny compared to the hundreds of millions of computer users of Google, the higher traffic reflects the growing acceptance of the mobile Internet, Mayer said.
While there are tens of millions of mobile searches on Google each day, they are a far cry from the billions of daily Google service requests done via computer.
So far, Google services are mainly designed for use on higher-priced "smart phones" that have faster browsers and bigger screens than typical mass-market mobile phones that are commonly used for voice-calling and text-messaging.
Mayer said internal traffic data appears to show a growing number of users switching off their computer and signing on to Google services via their mobile phones.
Google's mobile traffic still comes largely from U.S. users, reflecting the wider number of services available in the company's home market, including Google Maps, which offers detailed real-time traffic maps in more than 30 U.S. cities.
Japan and Europe are also seeing growing demand for Google services such as Gmail and mobile search, Mayer said.
Overall growth in the usage of Google services has begun to pick up again in the current week, as U.S. students go back to school and vacationers begin to return to work.
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)