What is a Mobile Device Anymore?

June 14, 2012 - 1 Comment

It used to be easy—mobile devices were brick-like devices that we carried with us to make phone calls.  Not anymore. Now we have smartphones, tablets, eReaders, and other devices that we bring everywhere and can’t seem to live without. No longer are we using them just for phone calls. In fact, they are now mobile computers, books, entertainment stations, game consoles, and social tools, in addition to our communications hubs. And, because Wi-Fi has become a prevalent way for many of these devices to connect to the Internet, they’re no longer strictly “mobile,” from a network perspective.

To learn more about what consumers are doing with their mobile devices, and how and where they are using them, the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) recently conducted a survey of U.S. mobile users. Following are our top three findings related to mobile devices:

1.     Mobile devices are now Wi-Fi-enabled “nomadic” devices.

People love their mobile devices. Our research shows that 75 percent of Americans now have laptop computers. Perhaps more significant, our findings indicate that the number of smartphone users has surpassed that of basic mobile phones: 52 percent own smartphones, versus 48 percent who use traditional mobile phones. Just a couple of years after the launch of Apple’s iPad, 20 percent of Americans now own some kind of tablet, and 20 percent own an eReader.

The remarkable thing is that all of these devices now have Wi-Fi Internet access capabilities. In fact, with the exception of smartphones, Wi-Fi is now the predominant access technology for mobile devices (see “Device Network Connectivity” chart). More “nomadic” devices like laptops, tablets, and eReaders almost exclusively connect to the Internet through Wi-Fi, with only approximately 20 percent of these devices having any mobile connectivity capability.

Device Network Connectivity (owned device)


                                                                                                                   Source: Cisco IBSG, 2012

 2.     Entertainment is shifting to the palm of our hands.

These new mobile devices are increasingly the place where we go to be entertained. Almost half of all mobile users regularly consume all forms of video, music, books, and games on their devices. And, a quarter of all consumers are now reaching for their mobile device to be entertained. We expect this trend to grow further as devices become more capable and networks grow faster.

3.     It’s all about the home.

While they may be called “mobile devices,” they’re typically used at home. All consumers use their mobile devices at home, averaging more than 2.5 hours of usage in a typical day – more than double the time that they spend using them at work. While two-thirds of people still use their devices on the go, the world of mobile devices is changing from a “mobile,” on-the-go world (average usage of 0.5 hours per typical day) to a “nomadic” world dominated by the home. And, people expect to increase their home use of mobile devices even more.

Cisco IBSG conducted its online survey of 1,079 U.S mobile users in March 2012. The study was also undertaken in Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. Full results of the survey can be downloaded here.

Future articles will highlight additional findings from the study and our predictions for key changes in the mobile industry over the next two years. 

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  1. Stuart, it would seem that your market study reached similar conclusions to a recent study by ABI Research http://bit.ly/Nkrdtz

    Some mobile service providers may have a difficult time convincing late-adopter mainstream consumers that their 3G/4G data plans are worth the extra cost — when compared to pervasive free Wi-Fi hotspots.

    FYI, I’m actually one of those people.