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Smartphones, iPads & the state of the mobile Internet

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The first quarter of 2011 turned out to be a big one for smartphone makers, especially Apple and Android-based device makers such as Samsung. In the US alone, slightly more than half of the phones sold were smartphones, which now account for 80 percent of the revenues from phones sold in the US. Smartphones — along with the booming demand for personal hotspots, tablets and iPads — have caused mobile data usage to explode, increasing by 130 percent during the first quarter of 2011 versus the first quarter of 2010, according to Akamai and Ericsson. In comparison, voice is becoming less important on wireless networks.

In its first quarter 2011 State of the Internet report, Akamai presents some illuminating highlights about mobile data usage. For instance on seven mobile carriers, one user consumed, on average, more than one gigabyte of content from the Akamai network. The carriers were in Hong Kong (3.75 GB/month), Indonesia 2.97 GB/month), France (1.42 GB/month), Germany (1.97 GB/month), Slovakia (1.83 GB/month), Australia (1.65 GB/month) and Puerto Rico (2.23 GB/month.)

Other factoids from the report include:

  • The average monthly 3G traffic is the highest for laptops (1-7 GB), followed by tablets (250-800 MB) and smartphones (80-600 MB)
  • Online video (30–40 percent) is the largest contributor to mobile traffic volume, followed by Web browsing (20–30 percent).
  • On tablets & smartphones, online audio, e-mail, software downloads, and social networking traffic are big consumers of 3G data traffic.
  • Tablet and smartphone devices usually have frequent and short sessions typically during the whole day, sometimes showing a periodic nature.
  • Laptops are usually on mobile connections for a few longer sessions, mainly during daytime and the evening.
  • Tablet traffic patterns over 3G mobile networks are much closer to smartphone traffic patterns than to laptop traffic patterns.

9 Responses to “Smartphones, iPads & the state of the mobile Internet”

  1. The huge amount of growth is really quite spectacular. Its interesting that this report, while presenting highlights about mobile data usage, really shows how people use tablets compared to smartphones and laptops. This reaffirms my suspicion that tablets will not be replacing laptops anytime in the near future as some have said.

  2. The skyrocketing growth of smart mobile device use is astonishing. It definitely opens up new worlds of possibilities in terms of connectivity, productivity and entertainment (those are the first three that came to mind, but the list could go on). This will come as no surprise being that I’m a Symantec employee, but I also think it’s worth noting that cybercriminals are most certainly watching this growth as well. They always flock to where the people are because, let’s face it, more people equals greater ROI. I am in no way advocating reverting back to the days of flip phones because of this fact – I’d be a hypocrite if I did – but I think we would all do well to keep in mind that these devices are in reality just tiny computers, and they need to be protected just the same.

  3. Precisely why I am fusing mobile internet and collegiate instruction for my current doctoral project. Educators/Organizations/Businesses/Professionals should keep their eyes on mobile (data) usage.

    Sidebar: The State of The Internet Report link appears to be broken.

  4. And yet, people wonder why the carriers want to charge extra for tethering, and continue to say that “data is data”.

    I’m not a fan of the current pricing tiers and caps (which don’t line up well, as LTE is rolling out and usage is going to change), but I do have to agree that there is a legitimate reason to charge for laptop tethering, especially considering it is most popular in the business sector. It just uses a heck of a lot more average data.

    I still say you could have the best of both worlds if the carriers had a low limit free tethering option, say 500megs, that most of us would use just for emergencies. Keep the network usage down, allow for incidental use, and probably get more tethering customers long term through upgraditis. :)

    • Your comment makes no sense to me.

      If the carrier has a cost per MB of data then they should charge us as such, in bundles if they prefer. Charging extra for the type of device is backwards thinking.

      The laptop’s bits are not any more expensive to the carrier. If the laptop uses more bits then it is actually COUNTER-productive to charge for tethering. Carriers should charge by the bit (in bundles obviously) and let a particular consumer add as many devices as they like for free. More devices = more usage = more revenue.

      The only model in which it makes sense to charge for additional devices is one in which we have unlimited data for a set price. As we’ve seen most carriers are moving away from that model, so we should now expect the price to add devices to drop to a nominal fee.

      • Yes, I can see your point. I guess I’m too used to having unlimited data on the phone so I was still thinking that way. Under previous plans, “unlimited” data on a smartphone was not priced for that level of usage. But you are right, by switching to per-GB pricing, it doesn’t matter as much. There should be a way to come up with a fair price tier and let it be used however you want under that model.

        I think the reason they haven’t though is still the same reason the cable companies haven’t provided no-cap options – they want to discourage heavy usage and set up their pricing plans in a way they think only people who really need it will buy. That way they can keep their overall network congestion balanced. (note, doesn’t make it true, and I realize they are doing all this to protect profit margins that are huge compared to most business, but I’m guessing the above is part of the logic behind it)