The technology landscape is changing with every passing year. More people than ever before are online, and the ways that people are accessing the web all over the world are changing, too.
More and more, mobile usage is surpassing desktop usage as the way most people surf the web, shop online, use social media and do other online tasks. And the data seems to show that trend will only continue, as more and more people around the globe primarily use mobile devices to get online.
We're well past the tipping point at which mobile internet users surpassed desktop users. In the last five years, the numbers have shifted in a number of categories to show more people using mobile devices than desktops to get online for a variety of online activities. Read on to learn how the desktop versus mobile landscape has changed since 2013, and how we expect it to keep changing in the future.
Mobile versus desktop usage in 2018 compared to 2013
In 2018, mobile usage was at an all-time high, and only looked like it would continue to increase. Here are the mobile versus desktop usage statistics you need to know.
Combined web traffic worldwide in 2018 compared to 2013
If we want a broad, big-picture look at how mobile web access has changed over the last five years, we can look at the total percentage of global websites accessed via mobile phone from 2013 to 2018. Statista compiled data about mobile phone web access, and found that since 2013, the share of global web pages served to mobile phones has more than tripled.
In 2013, mobile phones made up 16.2 percent of web traffic worldwide. In 2018, that had increased to 52.2 percent.
It's important to note that this data represents only mobile phones, and not other mobile traffic, like tablet traffic, which also increased in the same period of time. In 2017, total mobile web traffic was 67 percent of all traffic, which shows that tablet use contributes significantly to rates of overall mobile internet access. And if current data trends have continued, it means global mobile internet access has grown even higher than 67 percent in 2018 and beyond.
Now, as we dive deeper into desktop versus mobile web access, we'll look at specific types of internet use, including search engines, media consumption and e-commerce, and how much of the traffic in each of those areas comes from mobile users versus desktop users.
Organic search engine visits in 2018 compared to 2013
Statista analyzed the mobile share of organic visits to search engines over the last five years, finding a huge increase in mobile share of all visits between 2013 and 2018.
Q3 of 2013 saw 27 percent of organic search engine visits coming from mobile devices. By Q4 of 2013, mobile share of organic visits jumped to 33 percent. So even throughout 2013, mobile share of search engine visits was seeing pretty significant increases.
It naturally follows that five years later, in 2018, mobile devices had a much higher share of organic traffic to search engines.
In Q3 of 2018, mobile share of organic search engine visits was nearly 30 percent higher than in the same quarter of 2013: 56 percent. By Q4, it was 57 percent.
That means that in addition to the nearly 30 percent increase in the last five years, mobile traffic to search engines is still overtaking desktop traffic, albeit at a slower rate of growth than in 2013.
Between 2013 and 2018, mobile share of organic search engine visits grew pretty steadily to reach the numbers we see today. In the last five years, the data shows a shift from the majority of organic search engine visits coming from desktop users, to the majority of that traffic coming from mobile users.
Time spent per day on media in 2018 compared to 2013
Statista also compared the amount of time people have historically spent consuming media on different types of devices each day. This includes social media, video streaming, music, ebooks and other types of online media.
Unsurprisingly, between 2013 and 2018, time spent on media on a desktop has declined slightly. In the same period of time, time spent on media on a mobile device has sharply increased.
Desktop users spent an average of 144 minutes per day consuming media from their desktops in 2013. By 2018, desktop users were down to an average of 128 minutes per day of media consumption.
Mobile users, on the other hand, averaged just 88 minutes per day consuming media on their mobile devices back in 2013. By 2018, though, the amount of time the average person spent consuming media on a mobile device daily was up to 203 minutes per day.
That means that desktop media consumption declined by around 11 percent over those five years. Meanwhile, mobile media consumption increased by more than 130 percent.
In 2013, average daily media consumption on mobile devices was around 39 percent lower than on desktops. By 2018, media average daily media consumption on mobile devices had actually surpassed desktops by nearly 37 percent.
Conversion rates for online shoppers in 2018 compared to 2013
The one area that's been studied recently that doesn't show mobile handily surpassing desktop use is in online shopping.
While conversion rates for online shoppers have increased on all devices over the last five years, conversions on mobile are still lagging far behind "traditional" conversions, or those that happen on a desktop.
In 2013, mobile online shoppers had a conversion rate of just 1.14 percent. In 2018, that had improved to 1.56 percent.
Mobile shoppers are still 2.51 percent behind desktop shoppers in conversions, but if current trends continue, they may not be for long. Mobile shoppers' conversions increased 27 percent between 2013 and 2018, while desktop shoppers' conversions increased only 18 percent. That shows a faster rate of growth in mobile conversions than desktop conversions.
One possible reason for the slower mobile growth in ecommerce conversions than in other areas is the fact that 90 percent of mobile device use is spent in apps, and online shopping apps haven't seen huge growth until the last couple of years. Looking at all the data above, you can see that the fastest growth rates for mobile internet use happened from 2013 to 2015, and while mobile use is still increasing from 2016 to today, its rate of growth has slowed down a bit. Meanwhile, mobile apps for online retailers have only started to see explosive growth from 2017 onward.
Mobile versus desktop usage today
It's still too soon after 2018 for much data to be available about mobile versus desktop usage in the last year. But looking at 2017 statistics gives us a good idea of the trends, and they all show that mobile internet use is poised to continue growing and further eclipsing desktop use.
It was only in late 2016 worldwide mobile internet use surpassed desktop use. But the trend had been clear for some time by that point - desktop internet use had been declining steadily while mobile internet use rose over the prior decade.
Just one year after that milestone, mobile internet use had increased significantly. 67 percent of web traffic worldwide came from mobile users in 2017, compared to 37 percent from desktop users.
The future of mobile usage in 2019 and beyond
The trends we're already seeing in mobile and desktop internet use are likely to continue. As of January 2018, 3.7 billion people globally were accessing the internet from mobile devices. This year, it's projected that 63.4 percent of all mobile phone users will be able to access the internet from their phones.
That's especially true in developing countries where mobile devices are more accessible than desktop computers. China is currently home to more internet users than any other country in the world - 802 million users in total - and 98 percent of them access the internet via a mobile device. India is close behind with 500 million internet users, with around 80 percent of them online via mobile devices.
Ninety percent of the time people spend on mobile devices is spent in apps, and engagement is up to four times better in apps than it is in mobile web browsers.
One area where mobile use is still lagging behind desktop use is in engagement. As of 2018, 55.9 percent of the time spent on websites comes from desktop users, compared to 40.1 percent for mobile users. While more people are accesses the web from mobile devices than desktops, people still tend to spend more time on sites when they access them from non-mobile devices.
People are already using mobile devices more than desktop computers to access the web, and the data shows that's unlikely to change. In the future, mobile users are likely to continue to become more prevalent than desktop users. Could there come a day when desktop computers and laptops are obsolete because of mobile devices? Only time will tell, but the data makes it seem like a possibility.