The pace of technological change is driven both by innovation and by the demands of those who use that technology. User-driven change has been particularly notable in the way that most of us choose to access the internet. Whether you’re one of the new wave of internet gamblers trying to redeem a Unibet online casino bonus code or an online gamer catching up with the latest esports tournament news, in 2020 you are more likely to be using a mobile than a desktop device. 

The wider internet revolution continues to spread around the globe and each year more people than ever are going online, but within that revolution, there has been a second, more dramatic shift, as we opt to use our mobile devices to access the internet rather than our PCs. 

Rapid Shift to Mobile

It is not exactly clear when we passed the point where mobile internet use outstripped desktop access, but we have certainly passed that tipping point. Back in 2013, mobile phone usage accounted for around 16% of online traffic around the globe. That figure rose dramatically and reached 52% for 2018. But this only represents mobile phone usage. Add in the impact of other mobile devices, such as tablets, and that figure is likely to be way higher. 

Technological Change meets User Demand

Before iPads, smart-watches, and PDAs, mobile phones were simply that: devices that you could carry around with you for making telephone calls. The first commercially available mobile phones dated back to the 1980s, but they were bulky and expensive devices. Mobile phone technology moved slowly. Text messaging was launched in the early 1990s, downloadable ring tones and emojis followed at the end of the decade, and Japan produced the first camera phone in 2000. 

The Blackberry range of phones, which debuted in 1999, made it possible to send and receive emails through a mobile device and was rapidly adopted across all sectors of business, however, it was the development of the 3G standard in the early 2000s that made accessing the internet through a mobile device practical for most users. The era of the smartphone arguably began in January 2007, when Apple launched the iPhone, and mobile technology has gone from strength to strength ever since. 

Why Mobile?

So why are so many of us choosing our mobile devices rather than our desktops to access the internet? The answer is convenience. A mobile device enables you to check your emails, do your shopping, play online games, read the news and chat online with other people around the world, all while you’re commuting on the train, relaxing at the beach or sitting in your garden. Compared to the hassle of having to get home or to the office before you can fire up your desktop, the mobile device offers quick, easy and convenient internet access. 

Changing Behavior

But just as user demand has driven mobile technology, so the technology is changing our behavior. Not only are we using our mobiles rather than our desktops to access the internet, we’re also spending longer online. Figures vary, but back in 2013, the average time spent consuming various types of media on a mobile device was around 90 minutes. But by 2018, this had risen to over 200 minutes. Is that because we are finding the internet more and more useful or because we are becoming addicted to our mobile devices? After all, the first Blackberry phones were nicknamed ‘Crackberry’ for the way that they seemed to change some users’ behavior. 

Desktop Still Rules on Conversion

Curiously, there is still one area in which mobile devices lag behind desktop computers, and that’s in sales conversion. Figures show that although mobile devices account for the majority of user visits to retail sites, the percentage of visits that result in a purchase is lower for mobiles than it is for desktops. There is evidence that the gap is closing, but it seems that, for the time being at least, we still prefer to use our desktops to make significant purchases. 

Mobile Devices and the Future

There is no sign that the growth in mobile usage is slowing down, in fact, driven by expanding demand in major developing markets, most notably China and India, global mobile phone use is expected to hit 4.78 billion in 2020. If that trend continues, and the technology continues to make mobile devices ever more accessible and powerful, we may be heading for a world in which the humble desktop is effectively obsolete. 

Photo by NASA