Mobile Ubiquity

“The basic message is pretty simple. The confluence of...three factors--computing, connectivity and the cloud--means your phone is your alter ego, an extension of everything we do.” 

- Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, Mobile World Congress 2011

We live in a time when mobile technology is ubiquitous.  A new survey shows that more preschoolers can use a mobile smartphone application than can tie their shoes. A recent study reveals that one-half of people ages 16-30 said they were willing to sacrifice their sense of smell to keep their mobile phone. Another study discovered that 1 in 3 mobile workers regularly get up during the night to check email on their phone, and nearly half admitted that they couldn't sleep without a smartphone within reach.

The personal, powerful computing devices that people carry with them will soon be the primary on-ramp to Internet commerce, services and information. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) estimated that there were 5.3 billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide at the end of 2010. An oft-quoted prediction—that people will access the Internet more frequently via mobile than traditional desktops by 2015—has been toppled with the prediction that this will happen by 2013. For Hispanics, this is already true—53% of Hispanics use mobile devices to access the Internet.

Chart from Pew Internet showing the change in use of non-voice data applications on cell phones from April 2009 to May 2010 based on a survey. 66 percent used their cell phone to take a picture in April 2009; 76 percent in May 2010. 65 percent used their cell phone to send or receive text messages in April 2009; 72 percent in May 2010. 27 percent used their cell phone to play a game in April 2009; 34 percent in May 2010. 25 percent used their cell phone to send or receive email in April 2009; 34 percent in May 2010. 25 percent used their cell phone to access the internet in April 2009; 38 percent in May 2010. 21 percent used their cell phone to play music in April 2009; 33 percent in May 2010. 20 percent used their cell phone to send or receive instant messages in April 2009; 30 percent in May 2010. 19 percent used their cell phone to record a video in April 2009; 34 percent in May 2010.

People already do more than talk on their mobile devices. At the end of 2009, data transmission surpassed voice transmission on phones. According to data from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, people are using their cell phones to use more and more non-voice data applications. They take and share photos and video, play games, send and receive text and email messages, and access social networks and websites via mobile device.

The total number of text messages sent worldwide tripled between 2007 and 2010, from an estimated 1.8 trillion to a staggering 6.1 trillion. Breaking that figure down, 200,000 text messages are sent every second.

Consumer habits are changing too. Forrester research firm reported that people are increasingly more comfortable spending money, using price-comparison services and bar code scanners, and submitting consumer reviews on mobile devices.

It’s important to keep in mind that mobile device adoption means more than just phones. In 2010, there were 19 million tablets and 12 million e-readers shipped. This year, two million iPad 2s were purchased from Apple within the first two months of the product’s release.

Federal agencies are seeing the impact of mobile ubiquity. Agencies are reporting a growing number of visitors accessing websites from mobile devices. saw a 200% increase in mobile traffic from 2010 to 2011, prompting the development of a mobile-friendly website. The U.S. Department of Agriculture launched a mobile food safety website and within the first week found one-fifth of their traffic was going to the new mobile version.

Mobile is on government’s doorstep and it’s knocking. Government needs to get ready and welcome it in.


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Last Reviewed 2014-11-28