According to recent figures released by the telecommunications watchdog, Ofcom, a third of all adults now own and use a smartphone. The figure is even higher for the younger generation. Ofcom’s annual Communications Marketing Report combines the work carried out by the regulator’s own research with work carried out by other industry analysts. The 341 page document provides a detailed snapshot of the nations’ TV, radio, internet and telecommunications consumption. The figures will have obvious resonance for both mobile website designers and anyone involved in the world of mobile internet, but do they tell us anything we didn’t really know before?
One in 3 adults now own and use a smartphone on a regular basis. 32% of adults use the iPhone, whereas 37% of younger users are Blackberry devotees. The increased uptake of smartphones has understandably led to a dramatic rise in mobile internet use. The most popular site visited on handheld devices was understandably Facebook: 43 million hours were apparently spent on the site in December, 2010, alone.
Amongst adult mobile users, 58% were male and 42% female. Amongst younger handheld users these figures were reversed. In the 12-15 age range, 52% of users were female and 48% were male. There was also widespread agreement that many users couldn’t bear to be parted from their smartphones.
The survey also looked at the current trends for mobile internet usage. 2481 adults who have access to mobile broadband were interviewed for the study. One important part of the study was to discover if there was a significant difference between what users looked at on fixed line internet and what they accessed on the mobile web. Interestingly enough, the figures for desktop internet usage and mobile internet usage were, in fact, pretty similar. However, there was a growing frustration that some sites that users wished to access would not work as effectively on handheld devices.
The majority of users predominantly used the internet for accessing their emails and messages as well as looking at social networking sites. Adults also accessed maps and GPS services along with picture messages and general news. Teenagers on the other hand spent the majority of their time listening to music and playing online games when not accessing emails or using the social networks. When it came to online banking, 61% preferred to do this via fixed line internet rather than by mobile. The concern over online privacy appears to increase with age, with the greatest level of concern expressed by those in the 55 to 64 year old age range.
So, what does this tell us about the current state of mobile internet usage? Well, as more and more people start to use their powerful handheld devices to access information they have always taken for granted on desktops, website designers will have to focus increasingly on designing websites and applications that are fit for purpose. If users can’t open certain websites from their smartphones they will turn their attentions to those sites they can open.