Just about everyone has a smartphone these days – capable of not only making calls and sending messages, but able to surf the Internet and run sophisticated apps and games.
In a report published in November, it was discovered there are more than 5,000 unique types of devices using the mobile web between July and September 2014 – an increase of 23% compared with the previous three months. The report from Netbiscuits was based on a huge sample of 1 billion website hits each month, and also showed that the five most popular devices made up nearly 40% of all mobile web data traffic.
The major smartphone companies like Apple, Samsung, and dozens of up-and-coming Chinese manufacturers, are releasing new, more powerful and advanced phones and tablets every few months, so it’s perhaps no surprise that the number of unique devices online are increasing rapidly.
Mobile devices more popular than PCs
Just five or ten years ago, most people would access the Internet on their PC. But today, the trend in people going online using their phone, for example, means that many companies and businesses must now target mobile customers first and foremost. This impacts everything from website design (so that sites look good on PCs and smartphones and tablets too), as well as the need to develop apps that help customers find what they’re looking for and purchase goods. There are now also billion people using the Internet worldwide, and many of those are using mobiles.
In “developing” countries such as Thailand, many people even use a smartphone or tablet as their primary means to get online. This may be because of the relatively high cost of laptops and desktop computers, but also because smartphones have become must-have fashion accessories that no self-respecting Thai would do without.
The Web looks fantastic on the larger screens–and it shows that more and more people really are using their mobile devices as their primary Web access device – Dan Weisbeck, CEO of Netbiscuits
The Netbiscuits report also found that:
- The iPhone 5S is the most popular device in the world, with 13% of all mobile Internet traffic
- Devices with screens larger than 5 inches have doubled their share within 6 months
- Phablets account for 7% of traffic in April, which rose to 14% by October
- Android has more than 50% of total tablet traffic in 89 countries (out of 219 tracked)
- Android’s market share of tablet traffic was largest an Asia at 59%
Android dominates the mobile Internet
There is no doubt that Android really dominates iOS (Apple) when it comes to smartphone sales and Internet traffic. That doesn’t mean that it’s the most profitable by a long shot, but it does show that nobody can ignore Android users when it comes to apps and services.
However, according to the survey, last year’s iPhone 5S is still the most popular mobile device in the world (and, incidentally, the world’s most popular camera based on data from photo sites such as Flickr). This time next year, it’s likely that the iPhone 6 will supplant the 5S as the most-used device – you can read more about the iPhone 6 in our mini-review.
Phablets are preferred in Asia
According to the Netbiscuit’s Dan Weisbeck, “We expects sales of phablets to continue to grow–as more users in the base switch to the larger phablet devices, interest will grow amongst those who currently have smaller handsets”.
Especially in Asia and Thailand, consumers are increasingly opting for phablets (which is a portmanteau of the words phone and tablet) – how many times have you seen a dainty young lady grappling with a huge device that quite frankly looks ridiculous when used as a phone
Even Apple has succumbed to the desire for super-sized gadgets with its new iPhone 6 Plus, and so far the strategy looks like it’s succeeding.
Too many devices – a headache for developers
While it’s great that consumers have more choice than ever before in terms of which smartphone or tablet to buy, unfortunately for developers it’s quite a serious problem. Not only do they have to content with multiple screen sizes, device capabilities, and different versions of Android and iOS (on Apple devices), but the cost and effort of doing so is tremendous.
This means that if you’re using an older phone, while you may still be able to surf the web and visit your favourite websites, you may not be able to run the latest and greatest apps. Often called fragmentation, it’s a problem that looks like getting even worse.
Isn’t a phone just a phone?
Many people simply want a phone that is just that – a basic phone that can make calls and send the occasional SMS. However, anyone who relies on fast and convenient access to the Internet for work or play, will appreciate just how important smartphones are in many people’s lives.
In Thailand, it’s often said that people are becoming obsessed by their phones and spend hours each day playing games, using Facebook and surfing the web. While it’s true to an extent, smartphones (and to a lesser degree tablets) have revolutionised nearly every aspect of society all over the world. Is that a good thing?