Web Access Via Mobile Phones, Tablets Rises In 2013

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Internet users globally go online via mobile phones, and 29% do so on tablets. Smartphone Web users increased 19% last year to 994 million, while those using tablets grew even faster—up 45% to 450 million.
Those are among the main findings from a new GlobalWebIndex study based on a fourth-quarter survey of 170,000 Internet users aged 16 to 65 in 32 markets.

The report found Android was the dominant mobile operating system, with 65% of Internet users on the Google platform, up 38% in 2013. Apple’s rival iOS system has a 20% share of the market, with just 5% using BlackBerry.

Regardless of operating system, people are sharing their devices more than might be expected. More than half (54%) of tablet users do so with at least one other person, (with a high of 73% in Argentina), while nearly a quarter (23%) share their mobile phones. Mobile sharing is most common among people with children aged 6-11, and people who don’t live alone.
“So it’s very likely that it’s behaviors inside the home – rather than while out-and-about – that are contributing to this trend, with many seeing their other half’s mobile phone as fair game,” said Jason Mander, analyst and head of trends at GlobalWebIndex.
Interestingly, income level appeared to play no significant role in device-sharing, so it’s not a financially motivated trend.
People aren’t necessarily willing to share their phone data with anyone. More than half (56%) of survey participants say they feel the Internet is eroding their privacy. Further, 28% of people use VPNs (virtual private networks) or proxy servers when they go online, mostly in emerging markets.

Facebook’s $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp announced Wednesday underscored just how hot the mobile messaging space is right now. WhatApp’s estimated user base increased 23% from the third quarter to the fourth quarter of 2013, according to GlobalWebIndex. 

But it was hardly alone in seeing double-digit gains in the period. Competitors including China’s WeChat, Snapchat, Kik Messenger, Vine and Instagram enjoyed similar or even higher growth levels, albeit starting from smaller user bases than WhatsApp. 

Among other highlights from the GlobalWebIndex report:
*Penetration of smart TV and e-book readers stands at 11% and 7%, respectively, worldwide.
*Compared to general Internet users, the tablet audience has a much bigger share of 25-34-year-olds (and a smaller percentage of those 16-24). Tablet users are also noticeably more likely to come from the top income bracket and be brand-aware.
*Poland and Brazil are the top markets for Android, with 80% penetration, while Japan and Singapore most heavily prefer iOS, with close to 60% adoption.
*Almost a quarter (24%) of Americans want to buy Google Glass when it becomes available.

"Person using smartphone" photo from Shutterstock.
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