It was inevitable. But it still feels weird. According to StatCounter, the world is now officially accessing the Internet from mobile devices more than from desktops. We’re moving, folks.
As of October, the score is mobile and tablet: 51.3%. Desktop: 48.7%. StatCounter illustrated the findings with a chart that looks like a bird beak, wide at one end and pointed at the other. In 2009, it was almost 100% to 0% in favor of desktop.
Partly that feels weird because in the U.S. (and the U.K. and Ireland), it’s not true yet. We’re still a culture of desk jockeys. We spend 58% of our Internet life on a desktop, while the U.K. and Ireland spend 55.6% and 58%, respectively. However, we’re averaged out on this planet by emerging markets that have skipped the evolutionary phase of butts in Herman Millers and gone right to mobile devices being their primary—and sometimes only—Internet access point. India is at 75% mobile.
So what does this mean? That we’re out and about more? Not really. This category should more accurately be called “small device” than “mobile.” Phones are accessed as often from the couch as from McDonald’s. Plus, a laptop is mobile, but goes in the desktop category. Because it has a big screen.
What this really means is that we are experiencing the Internet (and life, some would say) predominately through small screens. That means the experience needs to take that into account. “Mobile-first” is a buzzword, but it really should be a rallying cray. Your brand, your product, your strategy, it all needs to mobilize. And that doesn’t it all needs to be optimized for mobile. It needs to be custom-built for it.
What happens next is uncertain. The English-speaking world is probably going to trend more mobile, although who knows if we’ll reach India levels. Meanwhile, the emerging world might yet go through a big-screen phase as their economies rise and they discover the joys of a great desk chair. Eventually, I hope, we will lose the two categories. Access to the Internet won’t depend on a type of device any more than a physical book experience does. We’ll have a whole new way of accessing the Internet and a whole new challenge of adapting our brand experiences to it.
But for now, if you’re not mobile, you’re not a factor.