2014 Internet Trends Report: The World Gets Mobile

Author: Oliver Feldwick, Strategist, BBH London, @felderston

We’re all getting used to the relentless pace of digital. Graphs pointing upwards and so on. It’s easy to take it for granted and get a bit numb to it all. But with a bit of perspective, there’s some really big stuff. Internet usage is still growing albeit at a slower rate, but the scale of stuff now being done globally on mobile is seismic.

Some edited highlights:

  • Smartphone and tablet growth is on a trajectory where, instead of having 1b global PC’s, we’ll have 10b global mobile internet devices
  • Mobile data traffic growth has accelerated 81%
  • There are now 1.6b Smartphones and 439m Tablets globally
  • Global internet traffic is now 25% mobile, up from 14% year on year
  • 30% of global mobiles are now Smartphones
  • Tablets are growing faster than PC’s ever did, at 52% growth in 2013

It’s not just that what we did on a PC is moving to a mobile. It’s a fundamental shift in the base of devices the world is using. It’s worth dwelling on the impact of some of this – of a world with this proliferation of geolocated, connected computing devices.

Software is replacing a plethora of tools and tasks. Who needs a landline? A torch? A spirit level? A dictionary? A phonebook? A PC? Ultrasound machines? Calculators? Schoolbooks? Nike axing the Fuelband shows how specialised hardware is being threatened.

Anything that can be done by a smartphone or a tablet will.

This isn’t just a niche behaviour. ‘Over-the-top’ digital services like WhatsApp, Viber and Netflix have made complex tasks and behaviours completely mainstream. And it’s impacting all sorts of industries on a massive scale:

  • Tinder gets 800m swipes and 11m matches every day
  • 1.8b photos are taken and shared everyday
  • 50b messages are sent by WhatsApp alone
  • In many countries, Smartphones are now the primary screen in daily use
  • In the UK, Tablets and Smartphones get 166 daily minutes viewing time vs 148 minutes on TV

We aren’t just living our lives through our mobiles, we are living our lives fundamentally differently through mobile devices.

If that’s not enough food for thought there, add in the fact that smartphones rely on rare earth elements that are in short supply, with no clear substitutes and some of them due to run out as early as 2020. Just as we get hooked on these devices they will soon start to run out.

Which makes for a cheery thought given just how damn indispensable they are now. So maybe you don’t just need a mobile strategy, you need a post-mobile strategy as well?

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