Mobile by numbers

I’m fascinated by mobile. The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it… and I genuinely believe the digital world will change unrecognizably in the next couple of years because of mobile. A typical mobile user is on the go in an unpredictable environment, interested in quick glance-able information, focused on discrete individual tasks and is often distracted, so we’re already having to rethink our traditional approaches to accommodate this kind of behavior.

Mitch Joel at TedX Montreal made this brilliant statement; “We’re in a world of one line of connectivity. That’s us. You see… we don’t have to “go” to the internet any more because the internet is now an intricate part of our lives” which I think sums up effortlessly the UX we’re creating now. Context is King so circumstances or conditions that surround a person, place or thing affect behavior because content is of little value it it does not address the context of where you are. User Experience isn’t about lines & grids & boxes anymore, it’s about making sure content flows ubiquitously around users digital lives in a way that makes (common) sense.

2010 estimates put the world population at almost 6.8 billion inhabitants and it’s growing by 1.14% year on year. Eric Schmidt from Google estimates that there are about 35 billion devices connected to the internet at this junction in time and the U.N. Telecommunications Agency estimates that 77% of the population of the world own a mobile device. Soon there will be so many that we’ll probably stop counting.

There’s more to this as well… Former adviser to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, Professor Manuel Castells from Cisco predicts that by 2014, the number of mobile internet users will surpass the number of users browsing the internet via a desktop computer and a Morgan Stanley mobile report from 2010 backs this prediction up. Statistically modeling that if current rates continue by the middle of 2013 we’ll be using more mobile data up than fixed lined data.

Cisco also predict that mobile Internet traffic is expected to quadruple to a whopping 767 exabytes (one exabyte is equal to one billion gigabytes) a year by 2014.

So what was the tipping point? Well obviously smartphones have played their part in moving us forward into the a new mobile internet world, but it’s that pesky iPhone that made it ‘easy’. Increasingly, mobile phone usage is about Data not voice. An average mobile phone user uses their phone for 70% voice whereas an iPhone user is only 45% voice. The thing about mobile that’s so brilliant is that people can reach for the internet using whatever device makes sense to them at that time and where ever they may be.

Let’s look at some other fascinating numbers from a MediaScope Mobile Population Study conducted in 2010. In the UK, 76% of the population owns a mobile phone. The biggest market in the is the 14 to 24 age group and 87% of this age range own one or more mobile devices. A 2010 Mobile Shopping Study by Yahoo/Nielson revealed that 30% of respondents believe that mobile internet is more convenient than a home connection, sounds obvious but it’s still a relevant number because it proves users mental models are changing. 80% of people in the same Yahoo/Nielson study said that they use mobile during miscellaneous downtime and 76% use stated that they use mobile while waiting in line or for an appointment. 62% said they DIDN’T have time to interact with brands on phones unless it ‘got straight to the point’. 59% sometimes visit a site on a mobile and then follow up on the desktop and 34% visit a site on a desktop and follow up on a mobile. So users are starting to time-shift. 69% said that they use mobile for point of sale research while shopping and 62% use mobile while watching TV… So people are starting to interact with TV via their phones. Largely down to services like Twitter if we’re being subjective about this.

In 2010, 9 percent of Superbowl ‘Ad Blitz’ views were on mobile devices, which is why YouTube made the site mobile… In 2011, 23 million, 481 thousand & 693 people viewed Ad Blitz… with a staggering 3.45 million of those views coming from mobile… up to a cool 15% of views from last years 9%.

Simon Mainwaring, former Nike creative at Wieden & Kennedy said “[In the future] brands will no longer be places you visit, but people you meet along the road” which I think is an interesting way at looking at the new mobile trends and what that’s doing to brands.

…and get this… the most expensive item sold via ebay’s mobile app was a 1985 Piper PA-46-310P Malibu airplane for $265,000 according to Mashable and Marketing Week told us in January that the largest purchase on the M&S mobile website at Christmas in 2010 was two sofas costing over £3000! People are making serious purchasing decisions straight from their pockets now. Something we never would have seen a few years ago. The sleeping dragon is awakening.

What about who people are currently using to interact with the internet? I’ll let the brilliant guys at www.icrossing.co.uk help me there with this mobile infograhic:

Good stuff. Apple clearly have the market wrapped up… but for how long I wonder. There’s that free platform that will easily interface with low cost components and it’s called ANDROID… I predict the market will change dramatically in the next 18 months because totally new handset manufacturers will have the ability to start to pop up running on Android. Put it like this:

a free operating system (Android)
+ dual core ARM 9 @ 416MHz2G GSM/EDGE
+ 2.8” QVGA resistive touch screen
+ 2MP camera
+ GPS
+ WIFI and BlueTooth silicon
= $90 components + plastic case
4 weeks to market!

Looks easy doesn’t it. Apple might be the giant, but the Google beast is going to be fighting them hard very very soon.

How about an interlude… let’s look at 2010 in a format that’s more digestible. This rapid-fire tour of 2010’s key consumer and technology mobile trends shows the staggering growth in consumer mobile usage across a dizzying array of applications and social media platforms.

Looks amazing doesn’t it. Summary:

Massive increase in apps downloaded

  • FIVE BILLION apps downloaded — up from 300 million in 2009

Whopping expansion of location-based services

  • FIVE MILLION Foursquare users — up from 200,000 users in 2009

Surge in mobile social media platforms

  • 347 PERCENT growth in Twitter mobile usage
  • 200 MILLION mobile Facebook Users
  • 100 MILLION YouTube videos played on mobile devices everyday

Ongoing explosion in data traffic

  • 3,000 PERCENT growth in one carrier’s data traffic since 2008
  • 3,339: average number of texts sent per month by US teens.

Unprecedented competition and choice

  • 96 PERCENT of mobile users can choose from 3 or more providers
  • 92 PERCENT of mobile users are satisfied with their provider
  • 4 CENTS: average voice rate per minute in the US
  • 77 MILLION: number of smartphones shipped in the fall of 2010.

So tell me I’m not going mad. The mobile world (mobile is beyond phone and encompasses anything internet connected away from a desk by the way – I’m mobile now & on my laptop!) is an exciting and potentially game changing one.

To be continued.

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