A timely new analysis from Nielsen provides some context that justifies all the smartphone releases around Mobile World Congress 2014. Because, it seems, “smartphones are beginning to transform how we engage in our everyday lives.” Based on data collected “from markets including the U.S., U.K., Italy, Japan, and around the globe,” via Nielsen’s opt-in phone monitoring meters, the report concludes that “not only is smartphone penetration growing, with over two-thirds (67%) of mobile subscribers in the U.S. owning smartphones in Q4 2013, but consumer usage of phones is rapidly shifting toward increased screen time with entertainment and social media.”
Also, critically, “time spent using smartphones now exceeds Web usage on computers in the U.S., U.K. and Italy,” according to Nielsen. Although the report makes no apparent attempt to break out tablet usage figures from the overall analysis, it does find, strikingly, that “Italians used their smartphones about twice as long (37 hours) as they spent on the Web via their PCs (18 hours) in December.” Figures for the U.S. and the U.K. are only slightly less daunting for PC manufacturers.
Nielsen find that “apps make up the lion’s share of time spent using smartphones, led by the growth in time spent using apps for entertainment and media. In fact, the majority of Americans’ time with apps is spent playing games (18%), accessing entertainment (15%), or using social media (29%).”
Quite where ereading fits in this picture is not immediately clear, but it presumably falls under entertainment. Interestingly, only 2 percent of American smartphone users and 5 percent in the UK and Japan use their phones to access news and information. The hugely high figures for social media usage in the U.S. are only slightly lower in both those markets as well.
Microsoft’s unseemly haste to exit the PC space it defined in favor of tablet style devices and Windows Phones becomes very explicable in the light of these changing usage patterns. Developed world consumers, it seems, can’t move away from their desktops fast enough. And for ebooks, the new generation of large, cheap, smartphones and phablets can’t arrive fast enough for the straining eyes of readers everywhere. Because the smartphones will be pervasive and other platforms pushed increasingly into niches.