It’s a big week for mobile news as the Mobile World Conference runs its course in Barcelona. All the tech giants are fully represented and new operating systems, devices and apps abound. The promise of mobile web and market opportunities has been buzzing for years now, even as critical mass adoption rates remained gradual; but 2010 may indeed be the year the mobile market achieves that promised growth.

Smartphone ownership increased from 11% to 17% of mobile users in 2009, while 3G phone ownership increased from 32% to 43%, according to a recent report released by Comscore. Smartphone penetration is estimated to reach 50% of the market by the middle of 2011, and a quick glance at the cell phone market reveals quality, choice and affordability among devices are on the rise. Google’s Eric Schmidt announced in his conference keynote on Tuesday that Google is currently shipping out 60,000 Android handsets per day.

More choice and affordability will mean a wider range of consumers, but presently, Smartphone owners continue to be predominantly male, are 65% more likely than the average mobile user to be between the ages of 25 and 34, and nearly two times as likely to make more than $100,000 a year according to recent Nielsen findings. Critical mass won’t be a reality until these social gaps are reduced. When the time does come to allocate significant resources toward mobile marketing efforts, the emphasis on email, search and social media use is not likely to be much different. Mobile traffic currently mirrors internet traffic in that respect.

More important will be the social media apps which work well or are enhanced by mobile platforms, such as Foursquare, Twitter, and Facebook, which just announced a 54% increase in mobile use in the past six months. Also, as Search Engine Land points out, the evolution of search as it moves to a mobile platform – more emphasis on the local and social, as well as behavioral targeting – means more opportunity for small business owners who know how to properly leverage the tools.

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