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Summary:

Smartphones and tablets now trump laptops as the newer, more mobile devices use airport Wi-Fi more than traditional computers, according to data collected by Boingo Wireless. Although laptops outnumber mobile devices by a factor of five, the smaller devices use nearly 60 percent of airport Wi-Fi.

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Smartphones and tablets now trump laptops for browsing at airport gates as the newer, more mobile devices use airport Wi-Fi more than traditional computers.

Wireless network provider Boingo Wireless notes that 58.9 percent of the total audience on its network in airports is made up of handsets and tablets, with the iPad alone accounting for 23.5 percent of these. While the recent growth of smartphone sales has surely contributed to this trend, Apple’s iPad may be just as big a factor; much of the mobile device growth Boingo has seen is from June 2010, or two months after the introduction of the original iPad.

In terms of smartphones, Apple’s iPhone is the most used device for Wi-Fi on Boingo’s airport network, with 42.1 percent of usage, or nearly four times as much as Android smartphones. Some other key takeaways:

  • Average megabytes per month used by mobile devices is now 211 MB, or nearly double the 114 MB used on average in May of 2009.
  • The corresponding megabytes used per minute is up as well: 0.89 MB vs 0.37 MB two years ago.
  • Network usage on mobile devices equaled that of laptops in airports just this past February, indicating the trend is continuing to accelerate.
  • While laptops outnumber mobile devices in terms of potential user audience by a factor of five, mobile devices now account for nearly 60 percent of Wi-Fi network usage.

I can remember wading through a sea of laptops while waiting for flights a few years back, but Boingo’s data roughly corresponds to what I see now: about half of those surfing the web at the gate are doing so on iPads and smartphones, with just an occasional sighting of an Android tablet.

I’m flying out this Sunday heading to our Mobilize event, and I’ll be sure to take a closer look at who’s using what while prepping for my flight. For the record, I’ll be packing my iPad for use in San Francisco, but I’m more likely to use my 7-inch Galaxy Tab at the gate and on the plane.

  1. This looks like another case of iOS useage being over-estimated, due to the behaviour of its email client. When you are at an airport and check your email using iOS, images are enabled by default and get loaded. This is unlike e.g. GMail on Android, or Outlook on your laptop. This creates a lot of additional connections and data volume on the boingo Wifi, but there is no extra real use. See:
    http://blog.marketingxd.com/post/10551622231/have-mobile-devices-overtaken-laptops-at-airports

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    1. There may be some skewing based on that, but as I read it, Boingo is measuring unique device connections for the percentage, i.e.: how many devices by platform connect to their network. Boingo’s exact wording is: “Percentage of mobile devices associating with Boingo airport Wi-Fi network, by type.” That would have nothing to do with the amount of Wi-Fi used as I interpret it.

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