Back to articles

On the Go: Mobile Usage Statistics and the Changing Tech Industry

February 12, 2016

The term ‘mobile technology’ refers to a portable device that performs a variety of functions[i]. Whether these tasks are carried out via phone, laptop, tablet or other type of product, today’s tech users rely on mobile devices for a significant portion of their daily activities. From finding directions to a new restaurant in real time to playing a game while waiting for an appointment, we are more connected than ever before. And the mobile landscape of today has very little in common with its past self.

Picture this: when they were first introduced, mobile phone plans cost almost one dollar per minute[ii]. And Blackberry, far from a key player in today’s tech scene, dominated the mobile marketplace for over five years. With each passing year, mobile devices have become more capable and popular among users. In 2013, for example, around 4.3 billion people around the world had access to at least one mobile device[iii]. That number continues to grow, with an increase of almost a billion users expected by 2018, according to some estimates. Since the launch of Apple’s iPhone in 2007, mobile technology has been the main source of growth in the tech sector, and according to experts this trend will continue[iv]. So what are some of the highlights of mobile tech’s rapid growth, and what does the future look like for users? In short, it’s going to be big.

While the article below provides more of an in-depth picture of mobile technology’s rise, check out the following SlideShare presentation for a quick overview highlighting its impressive growth.

According to Cisco’s annual report, global mobile data traffic grew by a staggering 69 percent in 2014 alone. During the same year, mobile data traffic was nearly 30 times the size of the entire global internet in 2000. This should give you an idea of the usage explosion the mobile marketplace has experienced in recent years. Smart devices represented 26 percent of total mobile devices and connections in 2014, and that number has only increased. With connection speeds growing every yearäóî there was a 20 percent increase in 2014äóî consumers have access to higher quality devices that are capable of doing more. This will only further encourage mobile device use. With non-smart devices becoming a thing of the past and smartphones generating 37 times more mobile data traffic than basic-feature phones, it’s true that mobility is fast becoming the most important tech trend of our time.

Beyond just phones, tablets are growing in popularity as well. In fact, there are over 74 million connected tablets in use, and each tablet generates more traffic than the average smartphone. Another new development in mobile tech is that cellular data plans are being dodged in favor of offloading onto fixed networks via Wi-Fi and other connections. Tiered data plans are becoming more expensive, and this means the reported data use is considerably less than what is actually occurring: Cisco estimates mobile devices are drawing four times as much data from Wi-Fi as from cellular networks[v]. Video, which accounted for around half of mobile traffic 2012, is expected to make up two-thirds of it by 2017.

Looking ahead, experts can predict a few new developments for mobile technology in upcoming years, especially when it comes to mobile applications. In terms of design, one suggestion is that content will be aggregated and presented to the user consistently across multiple devices. Twitter is doing this currently by streamlining the way its app looks no matter how a user accesses it.

Wearable technology is on the rise as well, with fitness devices tracking steps, calories and workouts throughout the user’s day. Some experts suggest we will soon be interacting with one “customized newsfeed full of the services we use, presented at the right time.” Finally, The Guardian reports that app developers may stop designing separately for desktop and mobile; instead, they will create a single experience “that will stretch across any internet connected terminal.[vi]” As mobile technology continues to develop and change, it is clear that users are moving toward seamless connectivity and devices that can be incorporated into almost every aspect of daily life.