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How Mobile Is Shaping Global Digital Behavior

Tablets are producing high levels of engagement

Around the world, web users are surfing the internet on ever-more devices. A GlobalWebIndex survey of 180,000 web users in 31 countries found that as of Q1 2013, three out of five respondents accessed the internet on a mobile phone, and 22% used a tablet. That’s in addition to the steady percentage of internet users—about 93%—who’ve been using a personal desktop or laptop for the past couple of years.

Google continues to dominate as the leading web brand or app among both smartphone and tablet users, with 72% of smartphone users accessing Google sites or apps vs. 66% of tablet users doing the same. Facebook came in second, accessed by about half of smartphone and tablet users—while YouTube and Yahoo! ranked third and fourth, respectively. Where behavior began to diverge was in the higher incidence of tablet users accessing Amazon, Skype, MSN/Windows Live and Bing compared with smartphone users.

Amazon’s greater penetration rate among tablet users points to the device’s growing role in digital purchasing. While tablet users were actually 1 percentage point less likely to shop on the device when compared with mobile users, they were more likely than either mobile or PC users to review a product or brand in more depth, purchase an online service, use a group-buying website for a transaction, and even sell a product.

When it came to entertainment, the rank of activities was the same across devices. Watching a video clip was the most popular activity, followed by checking for information on music, leisure or entertainment, and then playing an online game.

Watching a TV show live and watching a full-length sports program were both relatively unpopular digital entertainment pursuits, though about one-quarter of both PC and mobile users still enagaged in these activities on their devices, as did an even greater one-third of tablet users.

While many have said that tablet behavior is more akin to desktop behavior than mobile, it’s beginning to look like the tablet may be a device unto itself. In general, tablets were more popular than PCs or mobile devices for most entertainment activities.

And while social networking is incredibly popular—used by more than six in 10 web users via PC, mobile and tablet—these sites have not yet fully supplanted webmail, which approximately 64% of internet users on each device accessed. The most popular place to use instant messenger was the mobile phone, while for most other activities, the tablet again held parity or trumped other devices’ engagement levels.

The findings suggest that the tablet’s unique features incline even more web users to engage with a wide variety of digital activities. But tablets are also still somewhat in the early stages of adoption worldwide; those who take up tablets before they are widely popular may also be the most digitally engaged consumers overall.


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