Charting the Rise of the 'Mobile-First' Audience

This morning the Pew Research Center released new survey data about mobile internet access. According to the findings, 93% of smartphone owners (and 63% of all mobile phone owners) go online with their handsets. Tablet usage was not part of this survey.

The most interesting finding, however, was that 34% of all those who go online with their phones do "most" of their internet browsing via mobile:

One third (34%) of cell internet users say that they mostly use their cell phone rather than some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer . . . Half (53%) of cell internet users say that they mostly go online from a device other than their cell phone, while 11% say that they use both their phone and some other device(s) equally.

Pew told me in email this number was basically the same percentage for smartphone and non-smartphone users.

Those who are "mostly mobile" include "young adults, non-whites, the less educated, and the less affluent." This is highly analogous to those who have a mobile phone but not a landine (or who essentially don't use a landline).  

Nielsen's recent Mobile Path to Purchase study (sponsored by xAd, Telmetrics) found that in certain categories the "mostly mobile" or "mobile only" internet population was nearly 50 percent (or above 50% in the case of online banking). Indeed, in specific segments or verticals (e.g., Local) the numbers may exceed 50%. For example:

  • 59% of searches on Yelp are from mobile devices
  • 50% of search on YP’s network is from mobile devices
  • As of Q4 2012 Google Maps had more mobile than PC users
  • Nearly 50% of Groupon transactions in June (for North America) came from mobile 
  • More than 50% of search traffic on Zillow is from mobile devices

What we're witnessing is the rise of an audience that may not use the PC at all in certain cases or use it purely as a secondary matter. As a counterpoint, see the recent comScore-Jumptap data that show people prefer larger screens in many instances.

Once more sites and internet experiences are better optimized for mobile devices, however, we may see an accelaration of this mobile-first/mobile-only trend.