Dec. 5, 2012 at 3:54 PM ET
As more and more Americans switch to smartphones, they're also adding tablets into their mobile mix, with the U.S. tablet audience now at 44.8 million.
The figure was shared Wednesday by research firm comScore as part of its third-quarter report on the "State of the Internet."
"Tablets are truly going mainstream as users are using them to access everything," from shopping to music to books to entertainment, said Tiffany Fox, comScore senior director during a Web presentation of the data.
Search is the top activity on tablets, she said, done by 72 percent of tablet users, followed by seeking weather information (67 percent), games (67 percent), social networking (66 percent) and news (60 percent).
Nearly two in five tablet owners read a newspaper on their devices, Fox said, with one in 10 reading a newspaper daily on a tablet. Kindle Fire owners, she said, are the "most likely" of tablet owners to do so.
And while 91 percent use their tablets at home, tablets are "increasingly on-the-go devices" for Americans, she said, with 38 percent saying they also use them in a public location, and 27 percent use them at work.
Between the growth of smartphones and increasing ownership of tablets — a "fourth screen" (with the TV, computer and mobile phone being No. 1, 2 and 3) — it's an increasing sign of the mobile Web's importance, she said.
"People want instant gratification now, they don't necessarily want to wait until they get home to a computer."
On smartphones, maps continue to be a key benefit for users. Others are for finding entertainment, Internet searching, social media, finding directories/resources, new and informations, portals (such as MSN or Yahoo), and retail. The latter category grew 65 percent year-over-year on smartphones.
"People are people are increasingly doing more retail-related functions, like paying their bills," or visiting auction sites, via mobile as they start feeling "more comfortable" with mobile e-commerce, Fox said.
In other areas, comScore said: