Mobile reigns supreme as desktop browsing finally left behind

1 Nov 2016

Mobile browsing. Image: GaudiLab/Shutterstock

The gradual increase in mobile internet browsing has seen it overtake desktop for the first time ever in October – an inevitable, yet seminal moment in the industry.

51.3pc v 48.7pc. That’s the monthly tally of mobile devices against desktop devices used on the internet in October, the culmination of a seven-year changing of the guard.

StatCounter’s latest figures show that mobile devices finally closed the gap and usurped desktop after an 18-month spell of very slow change. In mid-2015, a 10-point gap was established. This summer, it was reduced to little or nothing and now at last, the switch has happened.

Future Human


What does this mean? Websites that are not tailored for mobile, or better still entirely built for mobile browsing, will soon be left behind.

“This should be a wake-up call especially for small businesses, sole traders and professionals in Ireland and across the world to make sure that their websites are mobile friendly. Many older websites are not,” commented Aodhan Cullen, CEO of StatCounter.

Last year, one of Google’s better-known changes to its search algorithm – dubbed Mobilegeddon at the time – saw the search giant rank websites in order of their compatibility to the device of the person searching.

As things stand, Google search results on both desktop and mobile are sourced from the same powerful index that decides what results you get when you search ‘Chinese restaurants San Francisco’, for example.

However, if reports are accurate, that search in a few months’ time on desktop won’t be as up to date as the same search on mobile, as Google’s plans follow market trends and the near month-on-month decline of PC sales globally.

“Mobile compatibility is increasingly important not just because of growing traffic but because Google favours mobile-friendly websites for its mobile search results,” added Cullen.

Interestingly, despite the global figures showing mobile as the new king, both the UK and US remain desktop enthusiasts. In recent months, UK desktop devices browsing the internet grew out to 55.6pc of the market, with US desktop devices even more popular, at 58pc.

In Ireland, too, the merge of 50/50 earlier this year has since seen desktop figures branch out up to almost 58pc, showing just how dominant mobile must be elsewhere in the world.

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The mobile revolution of recent years is speeding up as 2016 comes to a close. We are now at a point where the vast majority of merchants in Ireland can accept contactless payments and this will reach 100pc by 2020, said Philip Konopik, Visa country manager for Ireland.

The biggest user of mobile payments in Europe is Turkey, with 91pc of consumers now using some form of mobile payment, followed by Denmark (89pc), Norway (87pc) and Israel (87pc). Ireland is not far behind in eighth place at 78pc, just ahead of Finland (77pc).

Actually, the Irish market is an interesting case study of late. Mobile ad spend in the country has overtaken desktop-based ad spend for the first time, with the former rocketing by 67pc.

The latest IAB PwC Online Adspend Survey for H1 2016 shows that digital ad spend has reached an all-time high of €216m, with €108.5m spent on mobile.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic