A report issued today by Comscore shows that the number of mobile-only Internet users in the United States of America has just overtaken (in March 2015) the desktop-only number of users. This news is not so much of a surprise as we have witnessed the rise of mobile Internet users for a number of years now, driven by readily available smartphones and cheaper data plans. Nevertheless, this is still a significant milestone that demonstrates how successful the smartphone (and to a lesser extent, the tablet) has become compared with the desktop computer.
This time last year, the desktop-only Internet user market covered a little over nineteen percent (19.1%) and mobile-only users amounted to a little under eleven percent (10.8%). What’s changed, then? We have not seen an explosive growth in the number of users only accessing the Internet from a mobile device – this is up by half a percent (to 11.3%) but instead, the desktop-only population has plummeted to under eleven percent (10.6%). Now; this does not mean that we are abandoning our desktop computers in droves but instead it shows that the population is quickly moving to what Comscore explains is a multi-platform experience. In other words, more and more of us have bought another device (so, a Chromebook, laptop, tablet or smartphone) to access the Internet in conjunction with our desktop computer. Indeed, the data shows that almost four in five of us have more than one Internet-capable device.
It should also be no surprise that our smartphones (especially) have rapidly become our primary access point to the Internet. This is because our use of the Internet has dramatically changed from “I’m going online” a few years ago, when this meant firing up the desktop computer, to our small and portable devices being permanently connected to the Internet and being very portable and accessible. Higher speed mobile data networks (the migration from 2G to 3G and now 4G LTE) plus ever more WiFi hotspots appearing, combined with thinner, lighter and more portable device simply means that we reach into our pocket or purses to access the Internet, but we no longer feel we are going online. Instead, the Internet simply becomes something our smartphone is connected to for our convenience.
Desktop computers still play an important role in our digital experience. They’re significantly more efficient for heavyweight applications or information-heavy tasks and as such as essential for workforce productivity. In other words, for getting stuff done. Consumers also prefer the perception of security through using a “proper” Internet browser on a desktop computer to a mobile browser of our smartphone. Nevertheless, the desktop computer is slowly being squeezed into something of a niche role, which half a decade ago the smartphone occupied.