Ask Matt: Mobile data boom may help these stocks

USA TODAY markets reporter Matt Krantz answers a different reader question every weekday. To submit a question, e-mail Matt at [email protected].

Q: Which companies benefit the most from the explosion of mobile data?

A: When investors see people with their faces buried in their smartphones, they start wondering where the money is to be made.

So far, much of the bonanza from mobile access has gone to the makers of the devices, such as Apple and Samsung. Since the units are such a novelty, the companies making them have been able to charge premium prices and enjoy large profits.

But as smartphones turn into more of a replacement item, rather than a new purchase, investors are wondering if some of the riches will spread to other areas.

The wireless telecom carriers are determined to hold onto their profits this time. Companies such as Verizon Wireless and AT&T are moving to tiered data plans, allowing them to charge the heaviest users higher prices. If this maneuver lasts, the connectivity players will be able to enjoy more of the profits from growth.

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Content companies have become one of the biggest, and undetected winners, so far. Disney, Time Warner and Viacom are all topping the broad market as they sign increasingly lucrative digital deals and broaden their audience who realize their gadgets are only as valuable as the content they can display.

Meanwhile, the companies in the background making the hardware have had mixed results. Some, such as Qualcomm on the front end of several areas of mobile technology, have been leaders. While others, such as Cisco, are still trying to make solid inroads.

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