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By the Data: For Consumers, Mobile is the Internet

Beside work related tasks - mobile is the Internet.

For the last few years marketers have been toying with the idea of the ‘mobile internet’ and until recently it has always been thought as a slice or subset of the ‘real desktop internet.’ As a digital marketing specialist, I believe that brands need to rethink this whole idea. For consumers, whether at home or on the train, mobile is now the real internet, and desktop is becoming the limited stripped down version.

Mobile is Eating the World

In the early years, with the first versions of smartphones, it made sense to view mobile as a smaller subset of the internet because even the leading phones had limited capacity. The first version of the Droids and iPhones were very different from the modern-day quad-core pocket computers.  Even though some saw the potential of smart phones, the general public viewed their mobile devices as something we would use when we were away from home to check work emails, the weather, or news. For many years this was how we viewed mobile devices.

Things have changed dramatically in the last year, when mobile finally surpassed desktop search.

As a result, Google is developing and pushing mobile search as the future in all of its products and many brands are beginning to take a different approach on their internet strategies. A growing number of enterprise companies are building fancy apps and responsively designed websites. Mobile should not be considered a small piece of your internet strategy anymore: it is the nucleus of internet usage going forward - especially for Millennials.

According to eMarketer, mobile ad spending will grow by more than 50% this year to reach $28.48 billion, and it will grow another 41% to reach $40.16 billion by 2016.  This massive shift to mobile spending is being driven by consumer demand. Even mobile app spending in 2015 will dwarf mobile web browser ad spending by nearly 3 to 1. Companies will spend $20.79 billion to reach people via apps compared to only $7.93 billion on mobile browser search.  

The Mobile User Has Nearly Unlimited Access

The new Droid Turbo or iPhone 6 are so advanced and easy to use that they are simply becoming the new way people use the internet. Mobile is no longer simply an alternative for those without a PC or standing in line at Starbucks. Even though there are some desktop legacy apps, they can only be accessed when you are sitting down, which is usually when you are at work.

In July, YouTube completely redesigned and decluttered their mobile site and apps to get people more quickly to the content and videos they want to watch. They decided to split up their mobile site into 3 main tabs, which consist of a subscriptions tab, a home tab with video recommendations based on previously watched content and an uploaded, and a playlist tab.  Mobile today means universal access to the internet at any time: I use my smartphone to search for information when I am at home, even when my laptop is in the same room or on the couch right next to me.

Earlier this year a study was conducted in the UK by OFcom Technology Tracker which questioned what computer device people value the most.  The answer is pretty obvious: the data show that smartphones and tablets have overtaken PCs for Millennials and for people in lower income brackets regardless of age. 

More than four billion people on the planet have a mobile phone, and in the next few years most of these people will be able to afford and will convert over to a smartphone. Android has done a terrific job facilitating the creation of an entry level mobile phone in the $40 price range. In developing countries, there will still be some grey areas, such as how much will people pay for internet connectivity or the feasibility of charging a mobile device in places with limited electricity.

One thing is certainly clear: the mobile platform has turned into a universal product in a way that desktop computers did not. The lower the income level the more crucial this communication becomes.      

Google’s goal is to provide their technology products to as many people as possible throughout the world. It is estimated that by 2020 more than 5 billion users will be connected to the internet. This universal mobile product is the first time that technology companies have a product that can be sold to all income levels. In earlier decades, they sold mainframes to large corporations and PCs to smaller companies and the middle class family demographic, but smartphones are being used by most everyone around the world. 

Build Products for How your Audience Uses Them

For entrepreneurs and startups that are looking to build products that solve the world’s problems and eventually scale into global markets, one needs to think about how things are used, because that will be the multiplier. Everyone has seen data showing us that apps represent the largest majority of time spent online on mobile devices, but there is a broader point to look at here. It’s not that apps are stealing or becoming a substitute for the web that matters, but that these smartphones have become a more sophisticated, powerful and richer internet platform than the old school PC web browser.  The processing power has grown exponentially when you compare an iPhone 6 CPU has around 625x more transistors than the first Pentium computer in the 90’s, which is not an even point of comparison. But, it’s the realization that mobile phones do so much more than plain old computers, and that is the multiplier effect.

  

Conclusion    

There are still many work related tasks that the tablet and mobile phone will not fully replace: no one is going to do a complex excel spreadsheet or write code for software or websites in a small screen. People still don't compose documents easily on a small device. Desktops will still be used for work, but for everything else the smartphone can pretty much handle all informational or transactional search needs.

This is why when companies are thinking about 'mobile' as just another bullet point next to 'SEO' in their marketing plans, they miss the point entirely: for consumers mobile becomes the platform, and it's a much richer and more powerful one.

And what happens when almost everyone on the planet has a pocket sized mini supercomputer connected to the internet? It can no longer be thought of as just a subset of the internet - it is the internet.