In general, people are spending more and more time consuming digital media content. According to the latest data from WeAreSocial (“Digital 2019: Global internet use accelerates,” 2019), Internet users are growing at a rate of more than one million new users every day. With each passing year, though, the gap between mobile and desktop usage is becoming more pronounced.
As user experience becomes tied to the success or failure of a website or an application, it has become very important for most organizations to determine which channels their target audience is using. In this article, we’ll delve deep into the latest findings in mobile vs desktop usage. Trends, statistics, and other key information will be discussed to shed light on the best user experiences when using mobile and desktop devices.
With each passing year, the technology landscape keeps changing, providing more ways for people to access the Internet. According to the latest data from Internet World Stats, there are now 4.53 billion people (about 58.8% of the world’s population) who have access to online web portals (“World internet users,” n.d.).
Thanks to the development of newer and more advanced devices, desktop computers are now not the only way for people to access the World Wide Web. Today, there is an increasing number of people turning to mobile devices for web browsing, ecommerce transactions, and other online-related activities. Mobile learning is also becoming popular among global corporations, according to the latest video training statistics.
Research firm BroadbandSearch reveals that from 51.3% in 2016, web traffic that came from mobile users rose to 53% in 2019 (“Mobile vs. Desktop internet usage,” n.d.). Although the desktop web traffic is relatively higher at 56.7% in the same year, trends reveal that mobile Internet use is poised to continue growing, potentially eclipsing desktop use in the coming years. The same study also found that 90% of the time spent by mobile users goes to using mobile-dedicated applications.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that desktop computing devices are on the verge of exiting the market. While smartphones and tablets provide better flexibility and portability, desktop computers and laptops are still better performers when it comes to more complicated computing tasks. This signifies, however, that developers need to put more thought into the differences between the desktop and mobile experiences and create better applications and responsive designs catering to specific users.
In the last five years, conversion rates have increased on all types of devices, including mobile, desktop, and tablets. In one study by BroadbandSearch, desktop users had a conversion rate of 4.14% in 2019, suggesting that users are more intent on purchasing products when they are using a desktop. On the other hand, the conversion rate for tablet users is 3.36%, while for mobile users is 1.53%.
While there are clear differences between desktop and mobile experience, there are quite a few areas that matter more when delivering an optimal experience for users. Some of these are portability, dedicated apps, and wireless connection.
Source: BroadbandSearch (2019)
This is one of the main reasons that mobile usage has overtaken desktop usage. An increasing number of users are turning to their mobile devices over desktop for tasks such as browsing social media, crafting emails, reading news, and online shopping. According to a study by BroadbandSearch, the amount of time that users spend consuming media over their mobile devices is around 203 minutes per day (“Mobile vs. Desktop internet usage,” n.d.).
Mobile devices have dedicated applications for almost everything—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and many more. Aside from social media apps, more business tools are also becoming mobile-optimized, targeting employees who need to accomplish tasks while on-the-go.
Meanwhile, there are also a number of applications that run better on desktop than on mobile devices. Most of these desktop-dedicated applications feature more compact navigation and better graphic layouts, making them incompatible with mobile devices. Some examples are graphic design and video editing software, productivity tools, educational apps, and IT development apps.
Another major difference between a mobile and a desktop device lies in wireless connection. Mobile devices can easily be connected to a cellular network, enabling users to stay connected to the web at all times. Meanwhile, desktop computers need to have a WiFi connection to allow for Internet access.
Once simply a bunch of communication tools, mobile phones have evolved rapidly and are now flaunting an endless list of advanced functionalities. Some of the most technically advanced phones today are packed with top-of-the-line specs and features, such as the ability to take high-quality pictures and videos and have more storage capacity, longer battery life, and better wireless technology. Every year, mobile phone companies are releasing newer and better devices, and the competition among mobile brands gets tougher as each day passes.
According to the latest Counterpoint data (Research, 2020), Samsung is the leading mobile brand in 2020, with over 80.4 million units shipped worldwide. Through its extensive R&D, Samsung has been continuously enhancing product capabilities and expanding its product portfolio, making it a global leader in the smartphone industry. Other mobile brands that made it to the top 5 include Apple, Huawei, Oppo, and Vivo.
All over the world, these devices have become a necessity and a part of everyone’s daily lives. They are used for a variety of purposes—communication, entertainment, and online shopping. The latest LMS trends reveal that mobile devices are increasingly becoming popular as tools for educational activities.
Mobile phones have become indispensable devices in various settings—in the modern workplace, in the classroom, and in people’s everyday lives. From social media to countless business tools, a mobile device brings a number of advantages to its users.
In fact, it has become such an important tool that hardly a day goes by when users don’t use their phones. A study by Dscout (Winnick, n.d.) found that the average person touches his or her phone at least 2,617 times a day, proving that mobile devices have become efficient tools to stay connected with others and provide users with a sense of security.
When mobile phones were first introduced to the public, they were meant to become a portable version of telephones, allowing people to communicate without the constraints of wires or phone holders. Over the years, they have evolved into comprehensive and advanced tools that serve various purposes—communication, entertainment, emergency, storage, and applications.
While the list of benefits of using mobile phones could go on, it still isn’t always good news for users. Like any device, mobile phones come with their own set of limitations and disadvantages. Below are some of the primary disadvantages of using mobile devices.
One of the main disadvantages of mobile phones lies in their screen size. Today, the most common size of handheld phones range from five to six inches. Although most users find these enough for day-to-day basic use, screens of these sizes may not be well-suited for accomplishing more complicated tasks. Compared to desktop devices, mobile phones are limited by their size and may accommodate a lot less content.
Since mobile phones offer a constant avenue for communication, users can easily be subjected to never-ending distractions and interruptions, affecting their productivity and concentration on their daily tasks. As such, the round-the-clock buzzing of mobile notifications can leave a potential lingering detrimental effect on people’s ability to engage in consistently productive work.
According to a study by the staffing firm OfficeTeam (“Employees waste an hour,” 2020), mobile devices serve as huge distractions in the workplace, with each worker spending an average of 56 minutes per day or nearly five hours per week for nonwork-related activities. On average, users pick up their phones 58 times per day, and 30 of those are during working hours (“Screen time stats,” 2020).
Source: RescueTime (2019)
While the earliest computers of the mid-1960s were large and took up massive space, today, there is a wide selection of portable computing devices that users can choose from. Laptops, which offer users the flexibility and freedom to work on computing tasks at any given time, were introduced in the 20th century. Since then, they have evolved into powerful computing machines, featuring cutting-edge functionalities, sleek and lightweight designs, and the most up-to-date and most popular operating systems available.
For these reasons, desktop devices serve as critical tools for executing daunting and complicated tasks. According to a study by the Nielsen Norman Group (“Large devices,” n.d.), users prefer to use large-screen devices, such as laptops and desktop computers, for most of their important tasks. The same study also revealed that users tend to turn to their full-size desktop devices when accomplishing more difficult tasks.
Source: BroadbandSearch (2019)
In general, every product of technology excels in some key parameters while showing limitations in others, as is the case with laptops and desktop computers. These desktop devices offer a wide range of unique features that help users in accomplishing various types of tasks.
A report by ResearchAndMarkets (Research & Ltd, n.d.) reveals that the global laptop market is poised to grow to $7.2 billion from 2020 to 2024. Although they are not as portable as mobile devices, the power and flexibility of desktop devices provide users with a number of benefits.
As essential business tools, desktop devices hold a number of advantages that can’t easily be achieved by their more portable technological counterparts. For instance, they can be used for various aspects of an organization’s business processes, such as accounting, product creation, marketing, and administration. In almost every field, desktop devices can be relied upon to accomplish tasks more quickly and accurately.
Compared to mobile devices, desktop computers and laptops have better reliability, power, and performance. They have more storage capacity, providing users with enough hard drive space to handle all of their software programs, media, and other files that require a vast amount of hard disk space. Desktop devices are also loaded with cutting-edge computer processors that enable users to handle multiple programs and activities.
The use of laptops and desktop computers also encompasses a number of risks, including durability, lifetime, security, and a number of hardware issues like battery, backup, and storage. Below are some of the critical disadvantages users may find in desktop devices.
One of the biggest limitations of desktop devices is their size, which makes it harder for users to carry them from one place to another. Unlike their mobile counterparts, some laptops can be too bulky to carry around and are thereby not suited to users who need to travel frequently.
Like other electronic devices, laptops and desktop computers have undergone drastic changes and developments since they were first introduced to the public. Today, there is a wide range of desktop devices to choose from, each offering different sizes, styles, features, and options.
The only drawback, however, is that these devices are more prone to wear and tear. According to a study by SquareTrade (“Laptop failure rates,” n.d.), one-third of all laptops experience malfunction within three years. The same study also revealed that netbooks are more unreliable compared to other types of desktop devices, and the most reliable brands are Asus and Toshiba. Due to ordinary use, certain laptop parts, such as screen hinges, power jacks, and latches are more likely to weaken in the long run.
Source: SquareTrade (2019)
When it comes to mobile vs desktop traffic, a study by Statcounter (“Desktop vs mobile,” n.d.) found that 50.48% of web traffic comes from mobile devices. Meanwhile, desktop devices account for 46.51% of the total web traffic. Tablets contribute the least amount of traffic at 3%.
In the United States alone, 63% of all online traffic came from smartphones and tablet devices (“Mobile vs. desktop usage,” n.d.). This data is based on a total of 2 trillion site visits recorded in 2017, which is a significant increase from 57% in the year 2016. By the end of 2018, the figure is projected to increase by two-thirds.
Source: StatCounter (2019)
As reported by Business2Community (“Desktop vs. mobile,” 2017), ad viewership was significantly higher among mobile users (83%) than laptop and desktop computer users (53%). This is because there are more effective desktop ad blockers available on the Internet, which makes mobile users a better target for advertising campaigns.
Mobile learning is increasingly becoming a popular branch of elearning. A report by LearnDash (“7 random mobile,” 2020) revealed that 70% of learners feel more motivated when they are using their mobile devices for training, as opposed to when they are using a desktop device.
According to the latest mobile vs desktop internet usage statistics from Merchant Savvy (“Global mobile,” 2020), 58% of the total multi-device purchases made in 2020 use mobile devices to close sales. While desktop devices offer bigger screens for browsing online stores, users prefer to use their mobile devices for their convenience and better accessibility.
In ecommerce, categories such as video games, movies, computer hardware, and digital content have the highest mobile share of purchases and the ones with the most rapid ecommerce growth (“Fastest growing retail,” n.d.).
Global mobile usage trends show that in the U.S., 61% of email opens were done from mobile devices, 24% from a webmail client, and 5% from desktop devices (“Email opens,” 2018).
For every five minutes that users spend consuming online content, one of those minutes goes to social media browsing. Based on the latest data reported by Laptop Discovery (“Mobile vs desktop,” 2020), social media accounts for 25% of all digital media consumption and is primarily accessed via mobile devices.
As mentioned in a Hitwise report (“Hitwise,” n.d.), 58% of Google searches are done from mobile devices. This is based on an industry-wide analysis of search volumes, which proved that more than half of all search queries worldwide originated from mobile browsers. The same report also reveals that 72% of all searches are related to food and beverage.
Source: Hitwise (2020)
Compared to desktop web viewing and mobile-optimized websites, mobile apps have higher engagement rates and around 100-300% higher conversion rates (“Mobile growth statistics you need to know,” 2018). This proves that when it comes to conversion and user engagement, mobile apps win over mobile-optimized websites.
In another study by MobileMarketing (“Mobile app engagement,” n.d.), it was found that mobile app engagement metrics vary at a regional level, depending on the maturity of the market and the mobile-only market population. Western Europe emerged as the region with the highest direct app open rates at 40.6% from 2019 to 2020.
Source: MobileMarketing (2020)
Loading times matter significantly for mobile users. A report by Google (“Google: 53% of mobile users,” 2016) shows that 53% of mobile users abandon websites if the pages take longer than three seconds to load. This underscores how mobile page load speeds are critical to a good user experience, reminding web developers of the importance of mobile-friendly websites.
At one point, there was nothing more powerful than a desktop computer. People even used to debate, which was best for desktop browsing—Chrome, Firefox, or Safari. Today, though, there are now more ways to communicate and interact over the Internet. Thanks to countless developments in information technology, users now have an endless list of options for casual browsing, ecommerce transactions, or online marketing campaigns.
Most of the trends and data discussed in this article reveal only one thing, though. Mobile usage is gradually overtaking desktop usage in terms of web traffic and number of users. While users are mostly guided by personal preferences in choosing whether they should use a mobile or a desktop device, some of the determining factors are screen size, convenience, and portability.
On the other hand, desktop computers and laptops remain powerful devices and are not likely to be discarded any time soon. Despite product and device improvements on mobile phones, many users still prefer to accomplish important online-based activities on big-screen devices.