BEIJING: Mobile internet usage is gaining popularity in China, with more consumers going online via this route than on a PC in many areas of the country, Baidu, the search giant, has found.

According to the firm, five provinces - Beijing, Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shandong and Zhejiang - yielded 40.1% of mobile web traffic in the first quarter of 2012.

More specifically, the analysis showed that the amount of people logging on through a handset was higher than for personal computers in Beijing, Fujian, Guangdong, Shaanxi, Sichuan and Tianjin.

By time of day, the size of the online audience on mobile was also significantly greater than on a PC between 7am and 10 am, and from 9pm to 12am.

The peak time for mobile web usage was found to be 10pm, versus 8pm on a PC. "This suggests that mobile netizens tend to be younger than PC netizens and stay up later at night," Baidu said.

China Mobile, easily the country's number one network provider by subscribers, delivered 63.8% of traffic, although this was down by 7.8 percentage points on a quarterly basis.

China Telecom increased its total by 6.1 percentage points in this period to 19.7% and China Unicom was up 1.6 percentage points to 16.5%, reflecting China Mobile's struggle to convert users to the more advanced handsets associated with greater use.

Indeed, while 85.5% of mobile web traffic in Q1 was from 2G appliances, this figure had stood at 95% a year ago. In the same timeframe, 3G registered a lift from 4% to 12.7%.

The trends regarding devices also demonstrates a shift is underway. Some 22% of browsing was undertaken by users of Nokia devices, falling from 40.4% last year. Shanzhai, or "knockoff", alternatives were also down from 26.4% to 16.1%.

By contrast, Apple's proportion of total activity has grown from 1.5% to 5.9% in the last year, while Samsung more than doubled its share from 5.1% to 10.4%.

Similarly, Nokia's S60 operating system still holds a 17.2% share and feature phones were on 16.1%, but both Google's Android and Apple's iOS vastly outperformed their proportion of devices in the market, on 14.4% and 5.8% in turn.

When discussing the top 100 app downloads by Android and iPhone users, around 70% of these tools were software, like QQ's instant messenger, and 30% were mobile games.

Data sourced from Baidu; additional content by Warc staff