The Rise of the Mobile-Only User

harvard business review

The Harvard Business Review blog summarizes the rise of mobile versus desktop in the article, The Rise of the Mobile-Only User.

Their conclusions and stats are no great surprise. I think we have all seen our own personal usage of mobile become more and more important in the last few years.

One of the most persistent misconceptions about mobile devices is that it’s okay if they offer only a paltry subset of the content available on the desktop. Decision-makers argue that users only need quick, task-focused tools on their mobile devices, because the desktop will always be the preferred choice for more in-depth, information-seeking research.

This was the consensus in the early days, perhaps, but now the importance of mobile is no longer overlooked. Any Website that wants to remain accessible is ‘responsive’. People are becoming more and more dependent on mobile devices.

I would guess that, for most, there is now a clear division of tasks between the mobile devices and the desktop. Social media interaction is very, very easily managed on mobile, as is email, and organization and planning. Information gathering is also quickly accomplished on a smartphone or tablet.

I think we’ll see a rise in online shopping, reservations, banking, etc via mobile as well. Amazon and a number of large chains have made this really easy. The smaller retailers are bound to follow.

The rise of smartphones means that more and more people are going online from a mobile device.According to Pew Internet, 55 percent of Americans said they’d used a mobile device to access the internet in 2012. A surprisingly large number — 31 percent — of these mobile internet users say that’s the primary way they access the web. This is a large and growing audience whose needs aren’t being met by traditional desktop experiences.

I would have guessed that more than 31% use mobile as their primary access to the web. The primary users are definitely younger, while older people may still favor desktop.

The big tasks will likely remain desktop driven. And those whose work relies on desktop will never abandon it. Writing long documents is just not possible or comfortable on mobile. But, I would not be surprised to see a marked decrease in desktop sales to parallel the rise in mobile sales in the coming years.