People around the globe are still coming online on the for the first time in their millions. That much of that growth comes from emerging markets is to be expected. More surprising is that some of the highest rates of internet adoption come from authoritarian states.
Most famously, China has the world’s largest online population despite its citizens’ internet access being severely curtailed by a series of controls known colloquially as the Great Firewall of China. Iran meanwhile has threatened to cut off access to external sites, yet its online population has grown by 205% in the past year.
Interestingly the report shows that the internet has only reached 40% of China’s population so far, meaning that if it maintains its 10% year on year growth, it could have an online population in the billions within the next few years.
China’s internet growth is however now much closer to the global average of eight percent.
We’re still going mobile
Of the 2.4-billion or so people who now have access to the internet, nearly half can experience it on a smartphone. According to Meeker, there are now 1.1-billion smartphone subscribers worldwide.
The countries with the highest rate of smartphone penetration are Japan and South Korea, with 65% and 59% respectively. Given the tech culture in both countries (Korea is rated as the most connected country on Earth), that’s hardly surprising.
Smartphones however only represents 17% of mobile subscribers around the world. An upswell in cheap Chinese-made smartphones could see that number explode in the next few years and internet usage along with it.
Despite its importance as a means of accessing the internet in emerging markets (mobile internet has overtaken desktop internet in both China and India), it still only represents 13% of global internet traffic. That means it has some serious room for growth when it comes to getting people online.
Android’s growth completely dominates the iPhone
Chances are the vast majority of those people entering the smartphone market will be buying an Android phone. According to Meeker, Android phones have seen six times the adoption of the iPhone. Over 650-million have been sold in the 16 quarters since launch, compared to just over 100-million iPhones.
That’s likely down to the fact that a large number of manufacturers use Android as the OS for their smartphones. Its open source nature means that they’ve also been able to stick on much cheaper devices.
Hope for mobile ads
Smartphone adoption also means that apps and mobile ads are becoming increasingly viable sources of revenue.
In 2008, they brought in US$700-million. This year they’re set to bring in a combined US$19-billion. That’s some serious growth in a relatively short amount of time, especially within the context of a global recession.
The rise of mobile smartphones and tablets also means that Windows, which once held a near monopoly, is actually a minority player in the OS game. Android and iOS combined account for 45% of the OS market, while Windows now accounts for 35%.
While the Redmond-based giant could regain some ground with its mobile plays, it’s unlikely that it’ll ever regain the hegemony it once had.
Data is big and only getting bigger
The increasing ubiquity of mobile devices (never mind sensors embedded in everyday objects like cars, guitars, and bicycles) also means that we’re generating more data than ever before. In the five years leading up to 2011, the amount of data we generated grew nearly nine times.
All sorts of people from Facebook, to traffic app Waze and online review service Yelp are using selective pieces of that data to give people a more comprehensive view of the world they live in.
The magnitude of things to come
All that is just a glimpse of how tech is changing the way interact with the world. According to Meeker, that change is only going to become more rapid and affect more areas of our lives.