Mobile’s rise over the past few years has been well-documented as it continues to achieve major milestones illustrating its immense popularity, such as last year when and began accounting for half of all U.S. digital media consumption. But its latest milestone shows just how far this platform has come in overtaking desktop’s longstanding dominance as the primary gateway to the internet. For the first time in March, the number of mobile-only adult internet users exceeded the number of desktop-only internet users.
Just a year ago, there was still nearly twice the percentage of desktop-only internet users (19.1 percent) as mobile-only users (10.8 percent). While the share of mobile-only users has climbed over the past year to 11.3 percent, the desktop-only population has drastically declined to just 10.6 percent. Of course these numbers also tell us that the vast majority of the digital population (78 percent) is multi-platform and goes online using both desktop and mobile platforms.
Even still, this mobile-only milestone is meaningful because it signifies how smartphones and tablets (particularly the former) are becoming — or rather, have already become — our primary access point to the internet. For the longest time, the desktop computer was that vehicle connecting us all online, but the convenience of being able to communicate on-the-go, 24/7, and with all of the world’s information in our pocket gave the smartphone certain technological advantages over the fixed web. These benefits coupled with advancements in 4G data speeds, smaller-but-more-powerful processor chips, and in effect, thinner and lighter phones, all enabled the smartphone to become the digital device of choice in recent years.
All that said, desktops still play an important role in digital, and they don’t look to be phased out of our lives anytime soon. They’re highly practical and efficient for accomplishing complex and information-heavy tasks, which makes them crucial for workforce productivity. Additionally, consumers still prefer desktops when making online retail purchases, with 87 percent of total digital commerce coming from the platform, despite mobile accounting for 60 percent of total time spent shopping online. All signs indicate that the desktop computer is here to stay for the foreseeable future, but let’s also not be surprised if, as a society, we become even more mobile over the years to come. And with more mobile-only internet users than desktop-only users, it is yet another sign that digital media is evolving towards “mobile first.”
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