Mobile Usage Trends

I've noticed a dramatic change in how I use technology. I used to have a desktop computer many years ago but then switched to a notebook computer exclusively (mostly a ThinkPad). Over the past few years I've increasingly used a hand-held device as well (first an iPod Touch and then an iPhone). In addition to these changes, most of the data I work with is now stored in the "cloud". All of this has resulted in my being able to do certain types of tasks on either of my devices while some are still done better on one or the other device. I find this amazingly liberating.

Most of the tech pundits I read and listen to also talk about this type of transition in their use of technology. However, I wondered how pervasive or representative this change in usage was. As I often do, I decided to turn to Twitter to ask the followers of my @ibmdesign account to take a brief poll answering the question, "Please indicate the devices you use to do your e-mail during a typical day (check all that apply)" and giving the options of "Desktop Computer, Notebook Computer, Smartphone, and Other". I chose e-mail given that it can be done reasonably well on any of these devices.

The poll was completed by 228 people (thanks to those who responded!) and the results showed that 39.5 percent of e-mail was done using a Notebook Computer, 38.2 percent was done using a Smartphone, and only 22.4 percent was done on a Desktop Computer. Although there was an "Other" category, most of the responses could have been placed into the other categories so I did that to simplify the analysis. So it appears that Notebook Computers and Smartphones are used almost equally and Desktop Computers are used relatively little. Who would have thought just a few years ago that we'd be doing half of our e-mail using our phones? It's important to point out that the poll asked respondents to "check all that apply" so the results shouldn't be interpreted as indicating that 38.2 percent of respondents exclusively use their Smartphones for doing e-mail. In reality, most people likely do some of their e-mail on a Smartphone and leave a certain portion of it to a time when they have a Notebook or Desktop Computer at their disposal. I find that I don't deal with e-mails that are more involved, have extensive attachments, or require me to write a lengthy reply on the iPhone but leave those to deal with on my ThinkPad.

It'll be interesting to see what will happen to these trends when Apple's iPad is introduced into the mix. How do you think these trends will change as a result? Please use the comment mechanism to provide your thoughts on this.