China search leader Baidu has just released a report on mobile trends that provides insight on what lies ahead for the future of the Internet in general.

Some highlights:

Mobile Internet is catching up with traditional PC Internet at an increasingly rapid pace. Mobile Internet data traffic levels have already surpassed PC in Guangdong, Beijing, Fujian, Sichuan, Shanxi and Tianjin. This is especially the case for Beijing, Guangdong, Shanxi and Tianjin, where mobile Internet user traffic is significantly higher than for traditional PC.

Further proof that the mobile Internet is not just the future, it’s the present. Baidu’s findings are similar to a recent report from Flurry, which showed that Americans now spend more time in mobile apps than they do on the desktop-mediated Web.

There are significantly more users accessing the Internet from mobile devices than PCs between 7 to 10 AM in the morning and between 9 to 12 PM at night… In addition, mobile Internet usage peaks at 10PM, while PC Internet usage peaks at 8PM. This suggests that mobile netizens tend to be younger than PC netizens and stay up later at night.

So, not surprisingly, most people are using desktop Internet during work hours (despite the 8pm peak hour), which is great for anyone involved in enterprise software. But anyone who wants to reach people who are using the Internet in their “downtime” (social networks, shopping sites, games) ought to be concentrating their efforts primarily on mobile. This trend also reflects what happens in the US.

Apple now occupies the 4th spot with 5.9 percent of the [mobile phone] market share.

More good news for Apple in China, coming on the heels of another report that pegs the iPhone’s share of the smartphone market at 16 percent. Tim Cook must be pumped, especially so soon after visiting what will probably be the world’s most profitable Apple store. For a great explanation of the iPhone’s opportunity in China, read this forecasting post by Asymco. Or just look at this graph:

So who’s beating Apple in China’s mobile phone market? Nokia, Samsung, and counterfeit phones. Nokia and counterfeit phones are both losing market share, however: Nokia’s share, according to Baidu, dropped 18.4 percent year-on-year. Counterfeit phones dropped 10.3 percent.

The fight for dominance in the mobile browsers domain is intensifying. Data from the 2012 Q1 report shows that UCWeb browser remains to be the leading mobile browser with 28.9 percent of the market share. Webkit’s own browser and the QQ browser follows with 18.5 percent and 16.5 percent market share respectively.

In China, where people have long known mobile is the most important Internet platform, the mobile browser war is well underway. In the US, only Yahoo(!) has fired a real shot. Let’s get this war started already. Facebook, I’m looking at you.

In a cultural sense, China’s Internet market differs from the US’s substantially on many fronts. For some unknown reason, for instance, Chinese users just love a cluttered design experience. When it comes to use habits, however, it’d be folly to dismiss the technological trends. China is still a developing market, but that means that it sometimes skips – or accelerates – steps that in the US might have taken a long time. The shift from desktop to mobile Internet is a prime, and important, example.