U.S. Mobile Internet Use in a Snapshot

As business becomes increasingly globalized, it's important to consider the use of mobile devices not only for internal business users, but also external clients, customers, students, and citizens. Reviewing the latest statistics may lead you to modify your IT plans and apps.

Reporting on Global Mobile Use

Published in January 2017, the Digital in 2017 Global Overview report from We Are Social and Hootsuite provides a global view of Internet use. While I will primarily focus this blog on U.S. data, the report includes data from around the world, so let's start with a global snapshot. Broadly, this year's report determined that:

  • More than 50% the world now uses a smartphone
  • Mobile phone penetration has grown to about two-thirds of the global population
  • More than half of all Web traffic comes from mobile phones
  • About half of all mobile connections are now broadband

Change continues with digital global Internet penetration surpassing 50% of the world population. Growth occurred in all segments measured when compared to the 2015 report:

  • The internet user community expanded 10% in 2016
  • Social media users increased 21%
  • Unique mobile users grew 5%
  • Mobile social media users grew 30%

The View in the U.S.

U.S. growth accounted for 22 million (25%) of users in the Americas. The total number of mobile connections across the Americas decreased slightly since 2015; it is suspected that people have been consolidating multiple mobile subscriptions. This appears to becoming common all over the world. The increased use of smartphones drives the employment of OTT data services, VoIP, and mobile messaging. OTT apps are attractive to users because they are either cheap or free, removing the need for multiple mobile plans or contracts.

The report estimates the U.S. population to be 325.3 million people. Of this, about 88% (or 286.9 million) are Internet users. The growth of Internet users will certainly slow, as Internet access is limited in rural and tribal areas of the country. It's interesting that there are more mobile subscriptions (349.9 million) than the total U.S. population. Many users have more than one device -- one personal and one for business.

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U.S. Internet Use

As seen in the below graphic, the number of Internet users stands at 88% of the U.S. population. Additionally, 73% of the population (239 million users) use mobile devices to access the Internet. In terms of how the Internet is being used, use can cover a wide range of activities from personal to business. A major use it is for e-commerce with social networks like Facebook, YouTube, messenger apps, Twitter, Instagram, and dozens of others. Although these social networks started for personal use, they have evolved into business platforms. For example, I use iTunes and YouTube for publishing podcasts and video interviews with technology vendors and service providers.

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Changing Web Traffic Behavior

It's not surprising that Internet access is shifting toward mobile devices. What is surprising, however, is by how much things are shifting. As illustrated in the below graphic, the use of laptops and desktops has decreased by 17% since the 2015 report. Mobile phones have increased in usage by 37%, tablets by 13%, and other devices such as gaming consoles by 39%. Since social networks have evolved into supporting businesses as well as consumers, developers should be writing their apps for mobile devices first and then for the desktop/laptop.

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The Influence on E-commerce

E-commerce use varies significantly country to country for both consumer and business transactions. Current data from GlobalWebIndex shows that those employing e-commerce behave differently even within the same country.

Some countries reported a slight drop in e-commerce usage compared to 2015. This may be due to the increased role of mobile devices in people's Internet use. Which feels safer: your desktop on a wired or cable connection or your mobile device? Individuals may be more comfortable making financial or sensitive data transactions on their wired laptop or desktop computer. The user's mobile experience on mobile devices compared to their desktop experiences may be troubling. If you have internal and/or external users who are concerned about security, the option of wired desktop vs. mobile access for sensitive transactions may attract more desktop users.

Learn more about mobility trends and technologies at Enterprise Connect 2017, March 27 to 30, in Orlando, Fla. View the Mobility track, and register now using the code NOJITTER to receive $300 off an Entire Event pass or a free Expo Plus pass.