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Mobile internet usage worldwide - statistics & facts

Mobile devices have become a fixture of every-day life for millions of people. Across the globe, web-enabled devices such as smartphones and tablets have evolved into essential tools for communication, information, and entertainment alike. In 2021, the number of unique mobile internet users stood at 4.32 billion, indicating that over 90 percent of the global internet population use a mobile device to go online. Mobile ownership and internet usage are forecast to keep growing in the future, as mobile technologies are becoming more affordable and available than ever. This upward trend in mobile internet adoption is particularly visible in developing digital markets where mobile networks are the primary means of internet access. Today, mobile internet traffic accounts for almost 55 percent of total web traffic, while in mobile-first markets such as Asia and Africa, mobile connections account for an even larger share of webpage views.

Mobile usage trends worldwide

The mobile revolution continues to transform internet usage behavior and frequencies around the world. During the third quarter of 2021, global users spent more than half of their online time browsing the web from their mobile phones, accumulating an average of three hours and 43 minutes of daily engagement on average. According to a survey of global smartphone users, at the end of 2020, the most popular app activity on mobile devices was gaming, with around 70 percent of respondents reporting to play on their mobile phone weekly. Listening to music and using social media followed, with 67 percent and 63 percent of respondents reporting to engage in each activity, respectively.

Mobile media usage is transforming the digital landscape

Every year, global mobile data traffic experiences double-digit growth rates, a trend that is fueled by the rapid increase in mobile media usage. In 2021, video apps accounted for more than 66 percent of the global data volume, and by then, smartphones had long overtaken desktop computers and smart TVs as primary devices for watching online video. In 2020, video content remained the second-largest type of mobile service content in the market, making up a share of approximately 17 percent.

Towards a mobile metaverse experience

Engaging with social media is one of the most popular online activities among mobile users. For over a decade, social networks, messaging apps, and photo and video-sharing platforms have been among the leading drivers of mobile engagement globally. In 2021, after market leader Facebook rebranded itself into “Meta,” the term “metaverse” was launched into the mainstream leaving users wondering what the future of social media has in store for them. While Meta products like Facebook and WhatsApp have consistently ranked as the leading social media platform and the leading mobile messaging app for users worldwide, apps promoting social experiences in a metaverse environment have experienced a growth in popularity. Gaming platform Roblox is often taken as the reference for a highly gamified virtual world experience thanks to its social features allowing players to interact via their avatars.

Virtual environments where users can interact via their human-like avatars have been pioneered in the online gaming world. In 2021, the mobile app for creative gaming platform Roblox amassed 182 million downloads, ranking as the second most popular gaming app for users worldwide. Additionally, social apps set in the metaverse are very likely to have highly gamified features. The mobile-first video avatar app Zepeto is one of such platforms that uses in-app casual gaming to integrate users’ social experiences online. Zepeto, which was released in 2018 by the South Korean Naver Group, saw 13.13 million downloads from users worldwide during the last quarter of 2021, up by 32.5 percent from the previous year.

Mobile-first consumer markets

From the 2010s onwards, thanks to smartphones’ widespread commercial availability, a large number of global markets experienced access to the internet via mobile devices first. Despite being a fraction of the cost of a laptop or desktop computer, smartphones can run applications and access the internet, providing similar functionalities to more advanced set-ups. In the Asia-Pacific region, the growth of the mobile industries in China and India have brought the number of mobile internet users to more than one billion and 572 million in 2021, respectively. Users in rural or more isolated communities have especially benefitted from the increased availability of mobile internet access, which has - at least in part - helped to democratize technology access.

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