Mobile Internet Use Just Overtook Desktop for the First Time

The past few years have been transformative.

Getty Images / Ulet Ifansasti

It’s finally happened. A new report from StatCounter released Tuesday has revealed that mobile and tablet internet usage is now higher than on the desktop. Desktop internet usage accounts for 48.7 percent of global internet traffic, with mobile and tablet combined accounting for 51.3 percent.

The trend looks set to continue for the future, with mobile devices dominating the landscape. Desktop usage has dropped annually by an average of 9.3 percentage points over the past three years, dropping by 7.16 percentage points over the past 12 months. This rate of change can’t continue forever, but even at a conservative estimate the world will look very different in the next 10 years.

Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously proclaimed in 2010 that the PC would become akin to the truck in the future. Where trucks had previously dominated the highways, they would fade into obscurity over time. Cars, much like mobile devices, became a more convenient solution for the average consumer. Trucks, like PCs, would stay around for niche industry solutions.


At the time, Jobs’s comments seemed a tad premature in the face of a just-launched iPad and a rather niche smartphone industry. But with the flourishing of apps over the coming years, a slew of smartphone makers that adopted the Android platform, and rapid advancements in the speed of mobile processors all contributed to an explosion of mobile usage.

It’s hard to say for sure where we can go from here, but the smartphone may adapt to future virtual reality technologies. Facebook is already planning for a VR-based social future, and Microsoft has big plans with its Windows Holographic.

But even these nascent ideas may look radically different five years from now: at around the point the line graph starts, phones came with screens that were about 3.5 inches wide. Although it seems like technology always gets smaller, the development of phones within the five-inch range allowed for more immersive site development, while encouraging users to spend more time on their phones.

Virtual reality could make itself more accessible, perhaps with greater integration into the real world. Then again, with reports Microsoft has a holographic projector prototype in its labs, maybe the world will skip the VR craze altogether. The next five years will be fascinating for web development.