The world will be 'mobile first' by 2018

  • AFP
  • Updated: Dec 10, 2014 11:31 IST

According to the latest Gartner report, by 2018 the smartphone will have well and truly usurped the desktop as consumers' go-to device for communication and digital consumption.

For people in emerging economies, the smartphone, phablet or tablet is already the go-to device for web access. Across Latin and South America, Africa and Asia, affordable handsets are in many cases consumers' first-ever internet-enabled devices.

For instance, the latest user statistics from Alibaba's Alipay -- China's largest online payments provider -- highlight how the adoption of mobile handsets in remote regions of the country has led to an ecommerce and latterly, mobile transactions boom. In the first 10 months of 2014, 60% of transactions in Shaanxi and 58% of transactions in Ningxia were mobile, compared with just 29% in Beijing, where fixed-line broadband, wi-fi hotspots and households with multiple devices are the norm.

Gartner's report reflects the same trends beyond China but notes that even in mature tech markets such as the US and Western Europe, where the majority of homes have at least one desktop or notebook computer and where smartphone penetration is already reaching saturation levels, the same move towards mobile can be observed.

"The use pattern that has emerged for nearly all consumers, based on device accessibility, is the smartphone first as a device that is carried when mobile, followed by the tablet that is used for longer sessions, with the PC increasingly reserved for more-complex tasks," said Van Baker, research vice president.

"This behavior will adapt to incorporate wearables as they become widely available for users. As voice, gesture and other modalities grow in popularity with consumers, and as content consumption tasks outweigh content creation tasks, this will further move users away from the PC."

As such, Gartner believes that by 2018 more than 50% of the world's population will be turning to a tablet or smartphone first for all online activities.

The company also foresees the average smartphone price tumbling over the remaining years of the decade so that by 2020, 75% of all handsets on sale will cost less than $100. Gartner notes that at the premium end of the market, saturation is already starting.

With the exception of the latest brace of iPhones, a number of companies are already struggling to convince users to upgrade to the latest iteration of their flagship device -- the differences between the new model and last year's are already becoming increasingly subtle. For an example, look no further than Samsung's recent struggles in selling the Galaxy S5.

But demand is going to continue to be strong among consumers in the aforementioned emerging markets, where affordability trumps everything from fingerprint scanners to selfie settings.

Gartner also notes that prices for all handsets could well fall further as mobile devices start to replace physical wallets and cash in many of theses regions. As smartphones become mobile payment devices, an increasing number of companies will start to subsidize or sponsor their costs to ensure the technology becomes as widespread as possible.

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