Just a few years ago, if you wanted to read articles, play games or shop online, you did it while plastered in a seat, with a laptop or desktop computer in front of you. Times have changed radically.
In today’s anywhere-and-anytime digital world, the idea of stationary computing seems downright quaint. We use our mobile devices in checkout lines, at stop lights, while jogging and — to the detriment of our safety — even while driving. It’s a mobile world, and we’re conditioned to look down at our smartphones during every spare moment.
In the years ahead, we can expect this type of activity to accelerate, just as it has in 2013.
So what’s driving rapid growth in mobile? One primary factor is consumer behavior.
According to a study released in September by Pew Research, 63-percent of U.S. cell phone owners use their phone to go online. With 91-percent of Americans now owning cell phones, that means more than half of U.S. adults are cell phone Internet users. But here’s the key fact — the percentage of cell phone owners who use their devices to go online has doubled in the last four years.
That’s not the only striking statistic revealed by the Pew report. As of September, 2013, one-third of cell phone users in the U.S. use their phone as their primary method of accessing the Internet. Mobile technologist Jason Hope says we can “expect this trend to continue, as more and more users migrate to mobile devices for Web browsing, gaming, shopping and other services. The refinement of mobile technology has resulted in improved user experience, and that has encouraged more people to choose mobile devices as their primary option for online activity.”
According to a report by BI Intelligence, 2013 has seen mobile usage hit its all-time peak, with U.S. consumers spending 20-percent of their online time on mobile devices. That rate is up from just four-percent in 2009 — an astounding jump by any measure. BI Intelligence also points out that tablet shipments have spiked 83-percent in 2013. Contrast that with desktop shipments, which have seen a double-digit loss. That statistic is telling, and is evidence of a radical shift. The report also points out that mobile growth on major social networking sites such as Facebook and Pinterest has continued to surge, and that mobile advertising is nearing half of Facebook’s ad revenue. Additionally one-quarter of search queries are now coming from mobile devices and there has also been a huge spike in mobile credit card processing.
Data compiled by Cisco also points to sustained growth in mobile. Cisco points out that global mobile traffic increased at a rate of 70-percent last year alone. Even more impressively, all mobile traffic from last year was greater than all Internet traffic combined 12 years ago. Several factors are driving this explosive growth. Faster connection speeds are allowing users to download video with the same speed and ease they would see at home on residential broadband. This enhanced speed has improved functionality and end user experience, and is partially responsible for smartphone owners using their devices almost twice as much in 2012, from a data consumption standpoint. Cisco predicts that by the end of 2013, the number of mobile-connected devices will be greater than the number of people on the planet. They also predict that in five years, mobile traffic from tablets alone will exceed all mobile traffic from 2012 — further evidence of a potentially transformational shift.
In 2013, expansion in developing markets has continued to drive overall mobile growth. Countries such as India and Brazil, which have seen dramatic spikes in cell phone ownership, have lead the way. While close to two-thirds of Europeans and North Americans regularly access the Internet, that number is far, far lower in high-growth areas such as Africa, according to the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations agency. This trend will certainly continue, as rates of mobile device ownership and Internet access continue to rise in the developing world.
The ITU also predicts there will be 6.8 billion mobile subscriptions in place by the end of 2013. The ITU points out that mobile broadband is less expensive than fixed broadband. Cost, therefore, has been a significant growth driver in the mobile market, particularly in the developing world.
Looking at the data, it’s clear mobile growth in 2013 has continued to follow a pattern that is unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. With cell phones and tablets becoming more deeply integrated in our lives, and with cost barriers coming down for untapped markets, we can expect the mobile market to continue to set growth records. Mobile computing is becoming the default option for many of us, and that trend is likely to persist.