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Germany Posts Big Increase in Mobile Internet Use

Majority of residents use a mobile device to go online outside the home

January 22, 2015

Last year, 54% of residents in Germany used mobile devices to access the internet on the go—compared with 40% in 2013, according to the “Mobile Internetnutzung” report issued by Initiative D21.

Mobile Internet User Penetration in Germany, 2012-2014 (% of internet users and total population)

The study—which sampled more than 1,000 German-speaking residents ages 14 and older with a fixed line or mobile telephone connection at home—has been carried out by TNS Infratest every year since 2012, with the support of Huawei Technologies Deutschland GmbH.

Overall, most online activity in Germany was still taking place at home on a stationary internet connection. But smartphones saw a surge in popularity, with ownership rising from 37% to 58% of consumers in one year. Among mobile and portable devices, only laptops were more widespread in 2014, registering nearly 60% penetration. Tablet ownership rose steeply too, doubling between 2013 and 2014 from 13% to 26%.

Smartphone vs. Tablet Ownership Among Consumers in Germany, 2012-2014 (% of respondents)

Women in Germany were less likely than men to own a smartphone (63.0% vs. 53.2%). Yet females who did have a smartphone used it more intensively than their male counterparts; 84.2% of females polled said they used theirs several times a day, compared with 79.8% of males.

Nearly one-quarter (23%) of mobile device users used a 4G connection to access the web—more than three times the proportion in 2013. Thanks perhaps to this improving high-speed service, 32% of those already going online via mobile said they could easily imagine using only mobile access in future.

It’s worth noting that internet users in Germany are embracing mobile web use despite real concerns about digital privacy, security and some potential effects on their society. Seven in 10 mobile internet users surveyed for Initiative D21 agreed that the mobile web entails a risk that personal data can be accessed illegally. In addition, 67% of those polled said that the mobile internet was making interpersonal communications more superficial.

Smartphone Users and Penetration in Western Europe, by Country, 2013-2018

Nonetheless, respondents generally agreed that 13 was an appropriate age for young people to begin using a smartphone. eMarketer estimates that due to increasing advanced mobile handset penetration among all age groups, Germany will boast 44.5 million smartphone users in 2015—the largest national user base in Western Europe. Within four years, the percentage of mobile phone users owning a smartphone is predicted to rise more than 20 percentage points, to 89.0%.

By contrast, wearable devices such as smart watches and fitness bands hadn’t yet caught on with the Initiative D21 respondents; just 4% said they had such a device in 2014. The question wasn’t asked in previous years.

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