You see it everywhere. While waiting in line at the bank, sitting in the coffee shop, and even while stuck in traffic, people are browsing the internet on their cell phones and tablets. Where we used to carry newspapers and books, we now carry tablets and e-readers. Instead of old-school Walkmen, we’re listening to music streamed live through the Pandora internet radio app.
In recent years, the world has experienced a mobile revolution. More people than ever are accessing the internet via mobile device and this trend will only continue to grow. Findings published by investment firm KCPB stated that mobile internet usage now accounts for 13% of worldwide internet traffic. Compare that to just five years ago, when mobile internet made up less than one percent of overall traffic. Mobile internet has hit the mainstream, and it shows no signs of slowing down.
The New Mobile Lifestyle
The rise in mobile internet usage in the past five years can be attributed to the popularity of devices like the iPhone and Android tablets. Faster processor speeds, better graphics capabilities, and more data storage make today’s mobile devices perfect for accessing the web on the go.
According to Pew Internet Research, 56% of American adults now own a smartphone and 34% of American adults own a tablet. Also according to the survey, 31% of smartphone users say they use their phones to access the internet more than any other device.
The Advent of Apps
Apps – or small, lightweight pieces of software created for mobile devices – are probably the biggest driver in the differences between mobile and desktop internet experiences. In fact, research suggests that mobile surfers spend a whopping 82% of mobile media time using apps.
The phrase “There’s an app for that,” has become something of a running joke, but only because it isn’t far from the truth. Both the Apple app store and the Google Play store now have over a million apps each, and contain programs that can be used for everything from entertainment to lifestyle management to brand promotion.
What Are Mobile Users Doing?
A better question would be, “What aren’t they doing?” Today’s mobile internet user has access to a wide variety of products and services.
According to a recent survey by Nielsen, xAd, and Telmetrics, almost half of the mobile users surveyed said they rely on their mobile devices when researching a potential purchase. They also found that 77% of participants make purchases after researching in a store.
While smartphone users most often make their purchases in-store, 58% of surveyed tablet users make their purchases online. Tablet users also tend to do the most research, taking as much as a month or more to make online purchases. Consumers rely heavily on their mobile devices to make informed purchasing decisions, which is why websites that sell products and services should be certain that their websites are optimized for mobile access.
According to the Federal Reserve, online banking refers specifically to, “using a mobile phone to access your bank account, credit card account, or other financial account.” In a survey conducted by the agency last year, 21% of respondents reported having used online banking sometime in the twelve months prior to the survey. In addition, 11% of the participants who hadn’t used mobile banking before said that they would definitely or probably use it in the future.
Mobile game developer Skillz reports that there are over 100 million people in the U.S (one sixth of the population) who play mobile games. Sixty-four percent of those users do so daily.
In fact, mobile users spend more time playing games on tablets than reading magazines, watching videos, or listening to music. And this is no small industry. Over 80% of all mobile revenue in 2012 was generated from games, and this revenue is predicted to reach $54 billion by 2015.
According to the Newspaper Association of America, about 34 million adults read news regularly via a mobile device. Mobile news readership grew an average of 58% per month during 2012, a sure sign that the news has gone digital. It’s also worth noting that people on social media often hear about breaking news through their social networks – well before they learn of the same happenings through traditional news sources.
Speaking of social media, Facebook is still the world’s largest social network with 1.1 billion registered users. Approximately 751 million of these people access the popular website via mobile device. Though Twitter is the second busiest with 288 million active users, it’s also the fastest growing social network in the world right now. Social media continues to grow along with mobile web usage (and is also a great way to engage your blog readership).
Litmus Email Analytics reports that 44% of email users access their inbox from a mobile device. Also, it’s been found that emails from companies were very influential in buying decisions – second only to recommendations from friends. These facts alone should emphasize the need for webmasters and businesses to create mobile-friendly email campaigns.
The Future of Mobile
Considering all of these statistics, there’s no doubt that mobile web use will continue to grow at a fast rate. According to some sources, mobile internet usage is expected to surpass desktop internet access as soon as 2014. If you’ve ever found yourself in a public place where half the people around you are staring intently at their smartphones, then this isn’t hard to believe.
In addition, if you’re waiting for futuristic-type devices to hit the mainstream, you might not be waiting much longer. It’s also expected that wearable mobile devices, such as glasses and wrist watches, will soon become popular. Developers will be expected to build websites that have fast load times for all these different devices, while still maintaining the type of content and media-rich environment that users love.
The numbers don’t lie: the future looks bright for mobile internet. While desktops and laptops still remain the most popular way for Americans to access the internet, people have begun to increasingly rely on their mobile devices to keep them connected in a fast-paced world. Business owners who stay on top of current mobile trends and use them to enhance their online presence stand the best chance at succeeding on the internet of the future.