2012: More Smartphone Shipments than PCs

Joey Fung  

November 18, 2010

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At the Web 2.0 Summit this week, Mary Meeker presented an estimate from Morgan Stanley that global smartphone shipments will exceed PC shipments in 2012. She also presented data from the last four years of Japan’s largest social network, Mixi, which saw mobile traffic increase from 17% to 84%.

Smartphones vs. PCs

Mobile devices are more personal than PCs. The most valuable mobile apps leverage the available technology to offer customized content based on location, direction, time of day, speed, ambient light and noise and any other data that can be gleaned from the device’s sensors. Additionally, with the device storing the user’s login credentials, it’s expected that any landing page should be tailored to offer the most relevant information to each user.

Mobile Japan Social Network

Relevant, targeted content has always been important, but it’s critical when talking about the mobile experience. The little available attention cannot be easily divided into tabbed browsing or multi-tasking on such a small screen, so the decision to click a link is made more conscious. This is amplified when users have a finite data allocation, a slow connection, or limited time. Bring them their content sooner or they won’t bother spending the time and bandwidth. The web might be worldwide, but it’s not all pertinent.

While competing against other apps and websites is important for the initial hook, keeping them engaged is much more important than it was on the PC. PC users make a decision to engage with their computers, but mobile devices more often supplement the situation. As PC sales flatten out to about one per household, however, mobile devices will fill the gap of the secondary PC, and may need to offer an experience that is richer than what’s needed when on-the-move. How to design for and detect these two unique cases of mobile device use is still unknown. Mobile analytics can help understand this space as it develops, so start the process now to get the most value out of your next UX consultant.

For now, keep broad information light and to the point. Take advantage of the mobile hardware and tailor the content to provide unique experiences to your customers, and they will continue to engage and return.