Mobile Growth: from Phones to Smartphones

Student using phone to learn at bus stop

Two-thirds of the world's population now has access to a mobile phone (Naughton 2012) and a 2005 survey noted that 82% of respondents in the UK used mobile phones, with use of SMS text messaging for 15 to 24 year olds highest at 89% (Vodafone Group 2006). Users of mobile phones and smartphones have gradually become more interested in searching the Internet via their devices, due to the increasing take-up of third and fourth generation mobile phones, the increasing availability of optimised mobile specific content and home broadband and new mobile devices which are more flexible and capable of handling an increased range of functionality.

In 2014, for the first time app usage surpassed desktop usage and began accounting for half of all US digital media consumption (comScore 2015) and in March 2015 the number of mobile-only US adult internet users exceeded the number of desktop-only internet users (comScore 2015). This drive toward mobile Internet access is due in part to the Mobile Difference identified by Pew (Fox 2010). This considers that once someone has a wireless device, they are more likely to use the Internet to gather and share information and create new content. In the 2012 ONS survey, the mobile phone was found to be the most popular device used to access the Internet wirelessly, away from the home or workplace. The adoption of mobile phone technology is again led by young adults, with 60% of 16 to 24 year-olds using a mobile phone to access the Internet every day (ONS 2012). Mobile also plays an increasingly important role in social networking. Mobile users now make up half of Facebook's user base, with 425 million monthly active users (CrunchBase 2013) and 23% of UK mobile web users have visited a social network through their handset - 4% greater than the US (Nielsen Online 2009).