1. Smartphones: making the internet truly mobile

Smartphones: making the internet truly mobile

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As 2011 drew to a close, Ericsson ConsumerLab identified the hottest consumer trends for 2012 and beyond. And, when asked what I expected the most important changes to be this year, it struck me that although everyone knows that smartphones are popular, very few seem to grasp the enormous implications these devices are having for people, business and society.

Many of the trends we identified for 2012 are related to this impact.

The statistics we have collected at Ericsson ConsumerLab globally over the past two years show that consumers and the evolution of the smartphone are driving the development of a truly mobile internet.

A very important aspect of this is that people’s habits have changed so that they are no longer using the internet in “chunks” throughout the day, but are instead accessing the internet seamlessly to complete multiple activities over the course of the day. A third of smartphone users access the internet before getting out of bed – and up to 50 percent of them browse the internet on smartphones in bed at night.

We are also seeing synergy between easy-to-use smartphones and communication apps such as Facebook and WhatsApp Messenger. One American woman confessed to us: “I just got my smartphone in January 2011 and I know that I’m way too addicted!”

Already, our research indicates that more people plan to buy smartphones than PCs, and more people plan to buy tablets than laptops – making the internet a fundamentally mobile experience.

What’s more, our research in India, Russia and Brazil concludes that this fundamental shift toward mobility is happening on a global scale. As one Indian consumer said:
“A better phone upgrades my access to the internet, but I consider spending more money on accessing the internet as upgrading my quality of life.”

The majority of smartphone users in emerging markets are new users but, interestingly, they use nearly as many apps as mature users, and their usage is quickly gaining pace. Except for internet access itself, apps are already the No. 1 driver for buying a smartphone – helping users in those markets to make usage of the mobile internet a daily habit. In a recent study, as many as 20 percent of respondents had started using data-intensive apps related to video, TV, maps and navigation on mobile devices.

These behavioral changes combine to create a Networked Society, where internet use is primarily mobile, and all consumer goods and consumer service companies face the challenge of becoming mobile service providers.

Our research indicates that smartphone users show an interest in mobile services that are directly related to places and things that are nearby and enhance the flow of their everyday lives. People want to use mobiles as commuting passes, to buy Coke in vending machines, as ID tags at work, for coupons and rebate cards, and to pay in stores more than they want to see improvements to MMS, music players or even video telephony. We already see great uptake of shopping apps, suggesting that if you want to keep your customers happy, you need to give users access to your products or service on their phones – whatever it is you sell.

Written by Michael Björn

Michael Björn is Head of Research at Ericsson ConsumerLab and has a PhD in data modeling from the University of Tsukuba in Japan. One of Michael's keen research interests is the process of assimilation of ICT into everyday consumer life.

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