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With our new GWI Device report now released (you can download a free summary here), what are the key headlines in mobile and tablet usage?

One of the most striking trends is just how widespread multi-device internet access has become. It's pretty telling that - in Q4 2013 - just 22% of PC/laptop users did not use other devices to go online.

Call it what you like - multi-device, omni-channel, multi-channel - the pattern here is clear: people are using more devices than ever before to access the net, and this is a trend likely to strengthen further as smart glasses and watches battle for attention. (In fact, 23% of online Americans say they're interested in purchasing Google Glass...)

At present, though, smartphones and tablets remain the devices to watch. Globally, smartphone internet users were up by 19% during 2013 – with the estimated mobile internet audience now exceeding 994 million people. Tablet usage climbed at an even faster 45% to approach the 450 million mark.

But this generalized picture needs to be nuanced. Firstly, levels of device sharing are significant: more than half of tablet users say that they share their device with other people, with nearly a quarter saying the same about their mobiles – devices which have traditionally been seen as much more "personal".

Secondly, mobile-only internet usage is relatively high in many fast-emerging internet markets. In Indonesia, for example, over a quarter of the mobile internet audience are mobile-only users – a figure which compares to just 5% in the US. For this reason, GWI is adding mobile-only users to its surveys in 2014.

One of the other major trends tracked by GWI Device is the continuing ascendancy of Android. Nearly two thirds of the mobile internet population are using it, representing a climb of 38% across 2013 and an impressive 270% since Q4 2011. iOS for the iPhone is now a distant second – used by a fifth of the global mobile internet audience. However, it retains a much greater than average market share in nations such as the US, Australia and Canada.

Android tops the list once again when we look at tablet operating systems – it is used by more than half of the tablet population (vs. 40% for iOS). Significantly, Android now has 30% more users than Apple; to put this in context, it was iOS which could lay claim to this title back in Q2 2011, a time when it had 34% more users than Android.

Finally, GWI Device also covers the rising popularity of social and messaging apps. Between Q3 and Q4, the biggest global increases in estimated user numbers were seen for WeChat/Weixin (+62%), Kik Messenger (+58%) and Snapchat (+56%); strong rises were also recorded by Kakao Talk, Line and Facebook's newest purchase, WhatsApp. Clearly, the cult of real-time communication is on the rise - placing real pressure on text messages and other previously favored mediums.

For further insights and data on a wide range of devices and internet behaviors, see the full version of the report.

 

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