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Industry Buzz: The 4 Most Important Trends in Mobile Usage

These top trends will drive continued changes in consumer products and enterprise environments.

Written by Jeff Mabeck and Greg Kuziej

Trends may come and trends may go, and especially when it comes to the ever-changing environment of mobile operating systems and devices, it's always handy to keep tabs on what's driving product innovation and industry changes.

These four top trends in mobile usage will continue to shape the future of the enterprise as well as how businesses cater to and deliver on consumer preference.

No. 1: Mobile operating systems (OS) dominate the world's computing platforms.

According to data from IDC and Gartner, 85 percent of the compute devices (which includes desktops/notebooks/detachables, tablets, and smartphones) shipped had a mobile OS, running either Android or iOS, showing that mobile ecosystems are vastly outpacing traditional desktop and laptop operating systems in terms of scale.

When it comes to type of mobile operating system, Android is king, beating iOS, both in growth and overall units shipped - by hundreds of millions of units. This may be surprising, because in the United States (and several other specific markets such as Australia, Japan, Canada, Hong Kong, Denmark and the United Kingdom), Apple has a fairly strong market share, so many Americans may assume that iOS is equally popular around the world as well. Yet from a worldwide perspective, Android is by far the foremost compute OS, garnering more than 70 percent of total units shipped; iOS and Windows both clock in at less than 14 percent each.

Compute device shipment forecasts from IDC and Canalys anticipate that the aggregate of tablet and PC shipments will remain mostly flat through 2022, while smartphone shipments will continue to increase, though at slower rates than in the past. The sharpest jumps of smartphone shipments were prior to 2015, with flatter yet continued increases predicted from 2019 through 2022.

No. 2: Smartphones are the most preferred Internet device.

Two-thirds of the more than 100,000 people that GlobalWebIndex surveyed said their smartphone was their most important internet device, up 34 percentage points in 2018 since the first quarter of 2016. Laptops and desktop PCs decreased in importance during that same timeframe.

This survey's findings support trend No. 1 - that mobile operating systems have taken over global computing systems. With more users relying on - and valuing - their smartphones as their primary device for their internet access, it's no surprise that mobile is outpacing desktop OS.

Demographically, users age 44 and under overwhelmingly prefer using their smartphones to get online; smartphones have a slight edge over PCs with users age 45 to 54, and lose to PCs with those age 55 to 64. This points to a future in which smartphones continue as the leading method of internet access as current users age and younger generations - who grew up with smartphones, and therefore are likely to prefer using them to get online - continue to grow.

This trend has implications for the enterprise environment. Consumer behaviors often carry into the workplace, and as younger employees enter the workforce, bringing their preference for working on mobile devices, it's likely we will see enterprises shift to accommodate them. Enterprises will need to get serious about implementing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, corporate network infrastructure and security protocols to help a mobile work environment succeed.

Laptops and desktops are not showing signs of going away, but may become less dominant in the workplace - similar to how offices used to be desktop environments and moved to laptops in the past couple of decades.

No. 3: U.S. adults spend more time online because of mobile.

Venture capitalist Mary Meeker's well-known annual Internet Trends report highlighted in 2018 that U.S. adults continued to spend more time on digital media than they did the previous year. While the overall time spent online only increased about 20 additional minutes each day, the majority of the time spent online was on mobile devices, which accounted for the overall growth in digital media consumption.

Mobile online time has been increasing steadily each year; for example, in 2008, U.S. adults only spent 2.7 hours online total, and only 20 minutes of that time on a mobile device, with most of the rest on desktop or laptop (other connected devices account for a small amount of online time each year). By 2017, adults spent 5.9 hours a day online, with more than half of that time spent on mobile.

While the time spent on desktops and laptops has declined only slightly from 2012 to the present, the time spent online has increased nearly two hours, showing that the ubiquity of mobile devices in the average American adult's life has driven them to spend more time online.

The findings from this survey show that mobile usage did not simply cannibalize desktop and laptop usage in a zero-sum game, with overall online time remaining flat year over year. Instead, while desktop and laptop internet usage has declined only slightly, mobile usage has boomed - people are spending more time online, and they're using mobile devices to do it.

No. 4: Mobile users desire mobile print services - but aren't aware of how to use it.

All of the previous trends show continued growth in mobile usage and preference for mobile, and a trend related to all of these is that mobile users often desire the ability to do the same types of things they could do from a PC or laptop - including printing.

For example, mobile photos have become a key form of content for users all over the globe. Based on data from Google I/O 2017 and WWDC 2017, between Android and iOS devices, we estimate that people take more than 5 billion mobile photos each day (InfoTrends estimated people took 1.2 trillion photos in 2017).

Yet despite the vast number of mobile photos taken every day, and although printed photos remain popular for posting in lockers and workplace cubicles, or in frames around the home, many users don't realize how easily they can bring them from the digital realm to the physical. InfoTrends found approximately 16 percent of users that take photos with a smartphone didn't realize they could print mobile photos directly, but would like to. Another 23 percent stated they plan to try mobile printing, but haven't yet. These two groups represent a large contingent of people who have not yet adopted mobile printing, but offer a significant opportunity to drive additional mobile print adoption through better awareness and simplicity.

Additionally, of the mobile device users in the United States who say printing is important to them, only about half of them know how to print via mobile and have tried it. Many users appear to be under the impression they need a new app to be able to print, when in fact it has become a seamless, frictionless part of their mobile operating system. With a standards-based built-in solution waiting to be discovered and employed, it's predicted that mobile print usage will continue to grow in popularity.

As user preference continues to skew heavily toward a mobile ecosystem, keeping a finger on the pulse of these four trends will help both enterprises and consumer-facing businesses optimize their environments and create products that people want to use.


About the Authors


Jeff Mabeck is senior R&D engineer for HP. Mabeck can be reached at


Greg Kuziej is senior director of software and solution engineering for HP.  Kuziej can be reached at

Published Tuesday, June 18, 2019 7:32 AM by David Marshall
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