Mobile’s share of online visits is still booming, but the shape of that traffic appears to be changing, according to a new report from Adobe Digital Index (ADI), released today at Mobile World Congress.
The top seven countries in EMEA all saw at least 11% growth year-over-year (YoY) in mobile visits. But, despite that growth in mobile, tablet traffic, specifically, is decreasing, according to ADI. The U.K., for example, has seen a 1.9% decline in tablet traffic, while Saudi Arabia saw the largest decline—25%.
What’s most interesting, according to ADI’s report, is that smartphones are not only being used more to access the Web, they are actually being used differently than in the past. ADI hypothesizes that the release of larger-screen devices, such as the iPhone 6S, is behind this shift in consumption. The larger screens are turning smartphones into both “lean back” and “lean forward” devices, according to ADI.
“There was a time when tablet browsing surpassed smartphone browsing, and that trajectory was expected to continue,” said Tamara Gaffney, principal at ADI. “Since then, however, browsing growth by these devices has decreased significantly, and we think this is mainly because smartphone screens are getting bigger. Now, instead of buying both a smartphone and a tablet, people are opting for ‘phablets’ and relying on just this one device—with a larger screen—for all of their browsing.”
End-of-year figures from ADI reveal 14 of the 17 EMEA countries analyzed show total mobile visits growing by 30% or more YoY; all 17 showed growth of at least 22%. A broader global perspective shows that EMEA’s growth actually trails APAC and the Americas, where all nine countries analyzed showed growth of over 28%.
Specifically, Saudi Arabian use of mobile is exploding. At the beginning of the year, visits from mobile accounted for 49% of the traffic to the sites analyzed. By year-end, that number reached 61.9%, according to ADI. If this figure is combined with an overall reduction of 25% of visitor traffic from tablets in the country, it is clear that smartphones are the dominant means of accessing the Internet.
“This may be because of the affluence of the country and consequent access to better specified smartphones,” Gaffney said. “It is also undoubtedly underwritten by the broader regional trend of ‘mobile first’ in Africa and the Middle East.”
What’s also interesting is that the countries in EMEA that had the lowest share of visits from mobile at the beginning of the year are now playing catch-up, ADI’s data found. The Czech Republic and Slovakia had the largest growth of the 17 EMEA countries analyzed. Slovakia, saw its 40% relative growth outstripped by The Czech Republic with 43.5% growth YoY.
On a global basis, however, China’s love affair with mobile continues, with growth of over 50% for the year. China’s figures suggest there is a migration happening in the country from tablet to smartphone devices. China’s fellow emergent economies, such as Brasil and India, also showed large decreases in the use of tablets against significant overall mobile growth. For all of these, the growing accessibility of higher performing and larger-screen smartphone devices appears to be driving significant online behavior.
“The mobile story continues,” Gaffney said. “This data from 2015 should be a wake-up call for organisations in EMEA. They must accept they have to make mobile a strategic priority, and they must keep up with the changes in mobile consumption habits fueled by the emergence of ever more sophisticated devices.”
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