We’ve all seen the stats.  Globally, there are 4 billion mobile phones – 1.08 billion of which are smart phones.  On average, Americans spend 2.7 hours a day socializing on their mobile devices.  By 2014, more people globally will access the Internet via a mobile device than a desktop computer.  Mobile is exploding and it will change everything.

As a firm whose primary business is building and managing online programs, it goes without saying that we need to stay on top of these trends.  To that end, we recently took a detailed look at how mobile usage of the traditional websites we manage (50+ sites in a variety of sectors) is evolving.  We did this by comparing accesses from mobiles devices in February 2010 to February 2011.  We did not look at the impact of mobile apps or SMS in this research.

While we can’t publicly release all of our findings, we did want to share some aggregate data.

Overall Findings

Not surprisingly, accesses from mobile devices has increased in the last year, although not as dramatically as I would have thought.  In February 2010, just 1.7% of users accessing the sites we looked at were using mobile devices.  By February 2011, that number had climbed to 4.4%. 

The percentage of people accessing via mobile varied wildly from site to site.  We saw percentages ranging anywhere from 0.5% to 20%.  The frequency of updates and topic of the site dramatically impacted whether people visited via a mobile device.  Generally speaking, news-oriented sites attracted more mobile visitors than sites with more static content.  Further, sites with a focus on technology tended to attract a higher percentage of mobile visitors than sites on other topics. 

We also found that sites for which we had created a mobile-friendly version attracted more mobile visitors than sites that hadn’t been optimized.  Makes sense.

Most Popular Browsers

The mobile devices people used to access the sites changed dramatically from 2010 to 2011.  The table below shows a breakdown.

Browser % February 2010 % February 2011
iPad 0% 23%
Android 12% 27%
iPhone 63% 38%
Blackberry 9% 6%
iPod 9% 4%
Other 7% 2%

As you’ll see, Android and iPad accesses have increased a great deal in the last year.  While the iPhone’s percentage of mobile device accesses dropped, it still saw a large  overall increase in the pure number of accesses from 2010 to 2011.

Interestingly, our findings don’t match the overall market share trends for mobile devices

Specifically, Android and iPhone owners appear to use their phones to surf the web a lot more than Blackberry users do.  This makes sense given Blackberry’s focus on email and business use.

Impact of Ipad

As you see, the iPad has gone from not existing a year ago to representing 23% of mobile accesses in 2011.  This is significant, since the iPad browsing experience is much more similar to that of a traditional desktop machine than you get on an Android, Blackberry or iPhone.  While there are certainly ways to optimize your site for the iPad, you don’t need to create a mobile-friendly version the way you do for smaller mobile devices. 

Indeed, if you categorize the iPad as a desktop device instead of a mobile one our percentage of mobile accesses drops from the the 4.4% of users referenced earlier.  Excluding the iPad, 3.4% of users accessed our sites via mobile in February 2011 compared to 1.7% in February 2010. 


For the sites we manage, mobile usage is growing but not as dramatically as the headlines we all read would indicate.  I expect the landscape to look very different when we take a fresh look at this in six months.  While I would not go so far as to say everyone needs a specific mobile strategy at this point, a discussion of mobile will be a part of the planning process for every project we take on moving forward. 

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.