Which devices use Wi-Fi hotspots the most? Not laptops…

Smartphones have overtaken laptops as the biggest users of Wi-Fi networks as society moves from part-time to full-time connectedness. According to a recent survey from Informa Telecoms and Media and noted by The Register, 40 percent of all hotspot connections are made by smartphones; nudging just past the 39 percent of laptop connections. Although the tablet market is young, it already accounts for 17 percent of Wi-Fi connections, says the Informa study.

Wi-Fi use by deviceSurely some of these results are powered by the fact that smartphone sales have surpassed those of computers and tablet sales are starting to catch up as well. More smartphones than laptops in use, for example, certainly add to more potential hotspot connections for handsets.

What else is driving such behavior? The cellular industry moving away from unlimited data plans has to be a big factor here. Wireless data demand continues to rise as fast as, if not faster than, the capability of network infrastructure. And device owners don’t want a connected device to be disconnected, even for a short amount of time: They want instant access to information, communications and media on demand but don’t want to break out the wallet for overages or access to additional amounts of broadband.

Smartphone usage on Wi-Fi hotspots — and tablets too — isn’t likely to slow down then. I’d expect this trend to continue as even more mobile devices are sold while more connected apps and services are developed over time.

So the Wireless Broadband Alliance is smartly using the results of this study to make a stronger case for Passpoint. This initiative will not only simplify the Wi-Fi hotspot connection process but it will help to offload more traffic off of mobile broadband networks. The data also makes a good point for the use of small-cell networks and greater Wi-Fi rollouts from cellular operators as the connected population wants access to more data more often but without paying much more money.