The growing market of the usage of smartphones and tablets is increasing rapidly in the recent years. The latest statistics show that overall worldwide sales of mobile devices reached 428.7 million unites in the second quarter of 2011 and global smartphone shipments have increased 74% year-on-year.
For comparison, the amounts of smartphones sales were rapidly increasing all the past year: according to Gartner Worldwide, “smartphones sales reached 54.3 million units in the first quarter of 2010, an increase of 48.7 per cent from the first quarter of 2009, and in June Google announced 160,000 daily activations of smartphones running the Android OS”.
People more and more start to use smaller devices instead of desktop computers or notebooks for their daily life activities.
Furthermore, people start to spend more and more time browsing the web on their mobile devices, as well as on their tablets. For example, nowadays if you would come to some cafeteria for a cup of coffee, you could notice that a big part of people there would be browsing internet while drinking coffee. They even start to value the cafeterias that provide free WiFi.
Mobile devices´ market
In your pocket there is a device that has changed the lives of billions of people all over the world. The third personal screen (after the TV and the computer) is the most personal one, and bringing our services to it is one of the business priorities of this decade. (“Programming the Mobile Web” by Maximiliano Firtman, 2010)
The specialists claim that the mobile web browsing reached its breaking point after the launch of the iPhone, because this device provided a very good user experience in browsing the web and it was a way better in this field among other that time current devices, and Apple was one of the leading companies whose clients would use internet in mobile devices the most (see Mobile Usage picture).
Market researches claim that mobile web use will likely surpass PC internet access by 2015, more people will access web using mobile devices than using desktop computers and this will make the internet a different place what means also new challenges for business and also web developers, web designers and other specialists.
But if at the beginning of boom of mobile web browsing it was almost everything about iPhone, currently the specialist warn that Apple isn’t the main player in the world’s smartphones market anymore, it receives a lot of publicity, it has the name but they point out that 96.5% of world’s mobile users do not have an iPhone, mostly they use Nokia or Samsung, and even among smartphone users 84% don’t have an Apple. And the big attention should be given to Android because the numbers shows that Android was the number one smartphone operating system in 2011.
The dramatic rise of the Android is very significant in some countries, as for example, United Kingdom (UK). The influential British newspaper “The Guardian” in October, 2011 dedicated an article to this subject: “How Android swallowed the UK smartphone market in 18 months”.
The global figures show even more, that the Android isn’t just the operating system market share leader, “a single Android manufacturer, Samsung, has blown past Apple in global handset sales, shipping 28 million units in Q3 (2011) while Apple only sold 17 million iPhones and [...] Android has now blasted past iOS in the smartphone platform market”.
On the other hand, if we talk about Europe in general the iPhone is still the leader in web browsing and even with the growing Android market share currently the iPhone is used much more for browsing web than Android devices:
The statistics and the predictions of the experts provide the idea that in the near future, at least in Europe, the biggest competitors in smartphone world there will be the iPhone and Android devices.
A little different situation is in the tablets market where Apple is an undebatable leader in this market. Introduced on January, 2010 and released on April, 2010 the Apple’s new tablet iPad exceeled all the sceptics. During the first year of introduction Apple sold almost 15 millions items of this new device. It was 5 times more the average Wall Street analyst prediction. Furthermore, with the introduction of the iPad2, in 2011 the iPads’ sales hit 40 millions items in June, and in 2012 the amount is predicted to hit more than 50 millions.
The experts, talking to the influential British newspaper “The Guardian”, predict even more: “tablet computers will see an explosion in sales over the next four years, selling 60% as many units as PCs by 2015 – and Apple’s iPad will still have almost half the market by then, says the research group Gartner in a bullish forecast”.
The reasons of the iPad popularity among other tablets, according to the experts, are “a superior and unified user experience across its hardware, software and services. [...] Most of the Apple’s competitors are struggling to meet Apple’s prices without considerably sacrificing margins. Screen quality and processing power are two hardware features that vendors cannot afford to compromise on”.
Talking about the iPad it is also worth to mention that still there are a lot of discussions about the iPad as a device: is it a computer or is it a mobile device? Even, the Apple presents it and always emphasizes that it is a mobile device but a part of experts and developers consider to be it still more a computer than a mobile device but the general opinion is that the iPad is more a mobile device considering the way it is used and what functions it provides.
No matter which brand, but all the statistics mentioned above shows that the companies already have to start thinking how to present themselves in the “future internet” because the nice desktop internet site is not enough if the company wants to reach all the audience it can reach.
It is also the signal for web designers and developers: “over the past few years, mobile web usage has increased to a point that web designers can no longer afford to ignore it. As a result, web designers have a growing need to be educated in this area and to be ready to design website that accommodate this audience” (“Mobile Design for iPhone and iPad”, Smashing eBook Series #4, 2010).
And here comes the challenge for the web designers and developers keeping in mind that the mobile devices will play the key role in the web browsing in the near future and thinking about the amount of different devices: screen sizes, operating systems, etc.
The challenge is to develop the internet site for all the devices, because “half of your desktop web skills and the tips, hacks, and best practices you already know simply do not apply on the mobile web. The mobile web demands new usability patterns, new programming best practices, and new knowledge and abilities” (“Programming the Mobile Web” by Maximiliano Firtman, 2010).
What do you think: is it important to optimize websites for mobile devices? If you are a designer or developer, what biggest challenges you do see in this area? Share your opinion!