Desktop Suffers Drastic Decline While Mobile-Only Soars

mobile only

A recent report by digital analytics company comScore shows a continued decline in desktop use as mobile use continues to rise.

In a post on the official comScore blog, Senior Marketing Insights Analyst Adam Lella explains:

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“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.”

Interestingly, while the data clearly shows a continued move toward mobile-only technology, Lella says the report also concludes:

“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.’”

Continuing a Trend

The steady increase in the popularity of mobile is nothing new.

According to the Pew Research Center’s Mobile Access 2010 report, 59 percent of all adult Americans accessed the Internet wirelessly, including on laptops. Two in five adults (40 percent) went online, used e-mail or used some form of instant messaging on a cell phone in 2010. That was an increase of eight percent from 2009.

By 2012, the true effect of mobile technology on both business and personal use was becoming clear. An April 2012 Pew Mobile Technology Fact Sheet revealed that 70 percent of cell phone users and 86 percent of smartphone users had used their phones in the previous 30 days to perform at least one of the following tasks:

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  • Coordinate a meeting or get-together (40 percent)
  • Solve an unexpected problem that they or someone else had encountered (35 percent)
  • Decide whether to visit a business, such as a restaurant (30 percent)
  • Find information to help settle an argument they were having (27 percent)
  • Look up a score for a sporting event (23 percent)
  • Get up-to-the-minute traffic or public transit information to find the quickest way to get somewhere (20 percent)
  • Get help in an emergency situation (19 percent)

As of October 2014, 90 percent of adults surveyed by Pew said they own a cell phone; 32 percent said they own an e-reader, such as an iPad or a Kindle, and 42 percent said they own a tablet computer.

Why This is Important in the Business World

Google’s Mobile Path to Purchase report surveyed 950 consumers across the verticals of Restaurants, Food and Cooking, Finance, Travel, Home and Garden, Beauty and Apparel, Automotive, Electronics and Health and Nutrition to analyze how they used their mobile devices to research their purchases. The majority of consumers began their research on search engines (48 percent), followed by branded websites (33 percent), and followed by branded apps (26 percent).

By far, the majority of the consumers surveyed (89 percent) said that most of their time spent on media was through mobile apps, versus only 11 percent who said they used the mobile Web to access media. The full study can be downloaded here.

Clearly, consumers are using their smartphones to look up literally everything. And if they’re standing in line at the gas station and need to look something up in a hurry, a tiny, confusing website designed for a PC is only going to frustrate them. A mobile device has to be easy to read, user-friendly and, perhaps most of all, incredibly succinct.

According to speaker and author Chris Brogan, if businesses do nothing else, they should at least invest in a responsive, mobile-ready website that features one clear action that the company offers on the home page. Brogan hit the importance of being mobile ready as a major theme when delivering the keynote at the 2013 What’s Next Conference, Forbes reports.

This could include a button to push, a video to watch or a demonstration of the value of a particular product. (Having a mobile-friendly website also helps with SEO, by the way. Such sites improve rankings on mobile-friendly search engines, including Google and Yahoo.)

It also goes without saying that mobile devices do a business good by ensuring that employees and company heads can always stay in touch. If you’re on a two-week vacation to Maui, perhaps this doesn’t sound as attractive as it’s supposed to.

Realistically, though, problems get solved faster, questions get answered more quickly and work can be turned in or reviewed immediately.

Desktop computers haven’t gone extinct yet, and it will probably be a long time before they do. But a company that hasn’t caught up to the mobile revolution should do so now or be left behind.

Old Computer Photo via Shutterstock

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Julie Fidler Julie Fidler is the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst and is a legal blogger for a large national law firm. She resides in Pennsylvania with her husband two very spoiled cats. Find out more at her personal blog.

6 Reactions
  1. Couldn’t agree more. People aren’t just using a desktop anymore and with larger screens on smartphones, even older demographics that may have struggled with small text/screens can comfortably use a smartphone. And in the developing world mobile internet access is often the only internet access available.

    • Richard Desmarais

      I am 59 and i can’t use the smartphone screen, it’s way too small. It’s more comfortable for me to use my 17″ notebook or my desktop 22″ screen. I plan to add a tablet of at least 12″ that i can carry. My dauther use a 10.5″ netbook and it’s not comfortable for me. I only see younger people using smartphones for internet.

  2. I agree. I hardly even touch my computer at home. The only time I need it is when I need to type something or when I need to play video games. But it is still an essential tool but not so much for Internet use.

  3. Hey, who is not guilty of a quick phone internet surf on public transport or worse at work in a moment of free time?

  4. Yea the whole mobile craze is taking over. Although tablet sales have leveled off, PC sales of all kinds are down and while smart phones and the now smart watches make their play for consumers attention. I can only imagine the small screen craze is coming. When a few years from now we all will be watching those nice HD movies on our smart watches. Leaving the desktop PC’s with their 30″ screens to gather dust because who doesn’t want to navigate the web on a tiny screen vs something better? Right?

  5. Desktop computers haven’t gone extinct yet, and it will probably be a long time before they do.

    I do not agree. just like YouTube did not kill TV or MP3 players did not kill the radio, mobile computing will not kill the desktop computer. They will just coexist.

    Why do I think that? Because desktop computers have way more processing and storage capacity compared to their mobile peers, and because some information just cannot be jeopardized to getting stolen or lost on a mobile phone… just to mention two.

    It is hard to tell what the future is, but I can still tell that every time someone has predicted that something “has died”, he was wrong.