A huge shift in Internet history took place last year when Google announced that more people search on mobile devices than laptops or desktop computers. For more than 20 years, the desktop was the only way to access the Internet, and now it’s not even the most popular.
But what do future trends hold for the parallels between mobile and desktop? Will the desktop eventually become obsolete and what specific trends keep mobile moving forward?
Mobile Isn’t Killing Desktop
It’s not that desktop use is getting worse, it’s just that mobile use keeps getting better. According to data from comScore, desktop internet usage has remained steady over the past three years while mobile use has risen above it. So how did mobile traffic increase without a change in desktop? Internet usage isn’t a zero sum game, and many mobile users have a smartphone in addition to their laptops and desktops. So just because a consumer is Googling something on a smartphone doesn’t mean he or she isn’t using the desktop the same way at home.
Audio, Video, Big Data
Video and audio streaming are taking up big chunks of America’s bandwidth in general. A 2015 study found that Netflix alone accounted for 37 percent of all North American internet bandwidth during peak hours, and that’s just one streaming service. HBO Go/Now, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and others only continue to grow and pick up new viewers.
But while streaming boxes like the Apple TV or Roku appear in more homes across America, mobile devices are where we still watch most of our media. Every major streaming service has an app for smartphones and tablets, and millions of Americans are watching movies and TV shows in bed, on the subway, or even just in a waiting room or lobby during free time.
Social Media Consumption
Speaking of audio and video, the shift in social media plays a huge role in the gigabytes of data we consume through our smartphones. What was once simply text and pictures just a few years ago is now primarily video across all services. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat all have native video through its apps and they now represent the way we consume social media the most.
Another report from comScore shows that more than half of all mobile use is social/digital media, and that a mere seven percent of those users are responsible for the majority of the data consumed. So as social networks continue to streamline video into its apps, this is a number that will only go up.
Now that mobile is such big business, protecting our hardware and data is now big business as well. It makes sense considering mobile devices are more exposed than the desktops sitting safely in our homes. Identity theft protection companies like LifeLock specialize in smartphone data theft, an unfortunate side effect to the popularity in the devices that travel in our pockets. The more we consume data on the go, the more people will try to find ways to steal that data and make money off our personal information.
The silver lining is that we’re not lost sheep in the wild. While data theft is a risk, the companies in the business of protecting us do a good job preventing the majority of theft. All we need as consumers are best practices and to utilize the services available if an extra layer of protection is needed.