‘Which Is the Most Important Device You Use to Connect to the Internet?’

On Twitter, Benedict Evans points to fascinating polling data indicating that the answers to this question1 are changing dramatically. In 2013, just two years ago, the results were:

  1. Laptop 46%
  2. Desktop 28%
  3. Smartphone 15%
  4. Tablet 8%

In 2015, the results were:

  1. Smartphone 33%
  2. Laptop 30%
  3. Tablet 19%
  4. Desktop 14%

Assuming the polling is valid, this suggests we’ve already passed the inflection point where most people consider their mobile devices (phone and tablet) central to their use of the internet.

I don’t think the chart in Evans’s tweet indicates these trends well. (The chart wasn’t his creation.) I would prefer something like (spends 15 minutes dicking around in Numbers…) this:

Line chart showing the perceived importance of phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops from 2013-2015.

Also interesting is to compare “mobile” (phone and tablet) versus “PC” (laptop and desktop):

Line chart showing the perceived importance of mobile devices versus PCs from 2013-2015.

My “mobile” and “PC” groupings aren’t entirely rigorous, because I’m conflating physical form factors with operating systems. For Apple products, that distinction is clear — their phones and tablets run iOS; their laptops and desktops run Mac OS X. And Android, as a consumer platform, runs almost solely on phones and tablets. But Microsoft’s Surface devices are tablets that run Windows, and Chromebooks are laptops that run what I would consider a mobile OS.2 But the overwhelming popularity of iOS and Android compared to Surface and Chromebooks is such that I think it’s a useful and fair comparison.

The bottom line: the post-PC world is here.

  1. It occurs to me that, personally, I honestly don’t know how to answer this question. A Mac and an iPhone both feel indispensable to me. If I really had to make do with just one, I suppose I’d pick a MacBook, but that’s not the question that was asked. In terms of my actual usage, my iPhone might be “the most important device I use to connect to the internet”. ↩︎

  2. It’s probably wrong to say Chrome is a “mobile” OS, but it certainly isn’t a traditional PC platform. What I’m interested in is the post-PC disruption of the industry, and Chromebooks are clearly a part of that, even if they’re instantiated in a very traditional laptop form factor. ↩︎︎