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Devouring the internet on our smartphones


Many of us believe that we cannot get by without our smartphones

Many of us believe that we cannot get by without our smartphones

Many of us believe that we cannot get by without our smartphones

Ever think you check your phone a bit too much? Yeah, me too. But we're not alone. A recent Gallup poll found that 52pc of smartphone owners in the US check their phones a few times an hour or more. And the younger the device's user, the more likely they are to be glued to the thing. Gallup found that over 70pc of young smartphone owners check their device a few times an hour or more often. Some 22pc check it every few minutes.

Two things are evident from this research. First, smartphones are highly addictive. And second, they are now the primary means of engaging with the internet. This is certainly the case in Ireland as well as the US. According to the IAB and Eurostat, 65pc of Irish adults go online with mobile phones, while 52pc say smartphones are their primary device for getting online.

So 3G and 4G standards have been adopted at a furious pace. There are now nearly three billion such connections, and that's estimated to grow to over eight billion by 2020. So the smartphone is set to become ubiquitous in a way that PCs have never been. And this means we should start looking at them as the primary device through which consumers connect. Andreesen Horowitz' Benedict Evans puts it this way: "What happens when almost everyone on earth has a pocket supercomputer connected to the internet? It's not a subset of the internet - it IS the internet."

So what difference will this mobile revolution make?

The smartphone explosion is good news for social networks, messaging apps and other mobile first platforms for peer-to-peer communication. They're particularly happy with how smartphone adoption is driving mobile video consumption. According to Cisco's visual networking index, video will account for 69pc of all consumer-based internet traffic by 2017.

So it's no wonder that Facebook and YouTube are scrapping for dominance in the online video space. YouTube has traditionally been the daddy. But Facebook is an aggressive challenger. Thanks to auto-playing video, it now claims to stream around four billion videos every day. And apparently it's held initial talks with major record labels about licensing music videos to appear in the news feed. Meanwhile, Snapchat seems to have carved out a separate niche. Not only has it nailed disappearing video messages, spawning a host of Snapchat celebrities, it has also created channels that allow traditional media outlets like Sky Sports and National Geographic reach a younger, hipper audience. The fact that Snapchat now accounts for 75pc of all social messaging data in the UK is testament to its success.

Mobile devices haven't been such good news for legacy media outlets. Not yet anyway. In many markets over half of news-related traffic is coming from mobile devices. Interestingly, despite the fact that we're a nation that's fallen in love with smartphones, only 37pc of online readers access news content via smartphone, according to the latest JNRS (Joint National Readership Survey). To make matters worse, less than 1pc use a native news app, rather than a mobile browser. Why such a low uptake? Well, news apps have consistently lagged behind the likes of games and social networks when it comes to downloads. And you could also argue that Twitter, Facebook and co. have created far better platforms for discovering news than newspapers have to date.

So what about advertising? Well, where the audience goes, the ads will follow. According to PwC's Global Entertainment and Media Outlook, mobile advertising will exceed online display by 2018. But marketers are also seeing mobile benefits beyond advertising. Retailers are now finding that consumers are using their smartphones along every step on the path to purchase. Retail strategy firm, InReality, recently found that 75pc of shoppers use their smartphones when they're in-store to look for deals and check potential purchases with friends.

And it looks like mobile disruption is only set to continue. Why? Because consumers demand it. Earlier this year, management consulting firm, Boston Consulting Group, found that consumers expect even more mobile developments that will improve and transform their lives. A total of 90pc of 3G and 4G consumers are looking forward to faster data speeds, better coverage, longer battery life, and other improvements. If global data usage continues to grow at its current pace, BCG estimates that data traffic will be 1,000 times greater than it is now within a decade.

The same research also found that consumers' perceived worth of their smartphones is sky-high. Boston Consulting Group asked consumers in six countries - the US, Germany, South Korea, Brazil, China, and India - what value they place on their mobile technology. And they got answers as high as $6,000.

Perhaps the true power of the smartphone is that we believe we couldn't possibly get by without it.

Sunday Indo Business