No iPhone 5; but will iPhone 4S propel mobile web browsing into the mainstream?

01 December 2011

With its faster iPad 2 chip, iOS5 operating system, faster downloads, longer battery-life, improved Safari browser and - perhaps most significant of all - ‘Siri’ the voice control personal assistant, we fully expect the ‘almost 4G’ iPhone 4S to accelerate mobile web browsing penetration. ‘Hand-me-down’ iPhone 4s and entry-level pricing ($99) for the ‘old’ iPhone 4 will both further expand the user base. That’s all before the next generation iPhone 5 gets launched. Together with the inexorable rise in iPad sales, forecast to total 326m devices by 2015, we estimate at least 20-25% of all website traffic will be mobile-based by mid 2012 and more than 50% before 2015.

Why are we so bullish on this? Well our own surveys show mobile device browsing already growing rapidly at between 10-20% per month, from an average base of between 8-10% in August. Most of this mobile traffic is Apple-device based (See our thought-piece ‘So, Google, where are all the Android browsers?’), while Android lags. Apple, themselves, claim 61% of the mobile web browsing market is already on iOS devices. We think this is conservative, especially for premium and luxury brand websites.

An Office of National Statistics ‘opinions survey’ in the UK, dated August 31st, estimated that nearly half (45 per cent) of Internet users accessed the Internet via a mobile phone in 2011. When it comes to younger demographics, the survey shows that 71 per cent of 16-24 year old Internet users accessed the Internet via a mobile, the highest of any age group, up from 44 per cent in 2010. Internet users aged 65+, at 8 per cent, were least likely to access the Internet by a mobile. 38 per cent of all adults also accessed the Internet via another sort of mobile device, such as a laptop or tablet.

Also before the iPhone 4S was launched, an inMobi consumer survey uncovered that 41% of all mobile users in the US, Canada and Mexico plan to buy an iPhone 5 – and 50% of them within the next 6 months – so while some will be disappointed that the iPhone 5 hasn’t launched yet (will they now buy an iPhone 4S instead?), we are pretty sure that new Apple devices will be key drivers for web browsing switching from laptops to mobile.

Implications for brand owners of information and ecommerce websites:

  • If you haven’t already defined one, your brand will urgently need a mobile website strategy. Apps are great, but are not good impulse acquisition tools and are best used once you have won a user over to your brand. Browsing requires a great brand experience via an instantly available mobile website
  • Adapting your website to be iPad friendly is a good idea, but it will not satisfy smartphone users. ‘Native’ mobile websites are now of growing importance
  • All websites now have to cater for three types of devices: PCs with many different screen sizes and multiple browsers; tablets of various sizes; and smartphones with smaller screens and finger-friendly controls. Coping with so many user devices is not easy and extra investment is required to ensure good brand experiences for all
  • We see a new website design aesthetic developing that takes account of mobile usability issues, and reflects the inexorable migration from mouse to fingertip control. But what if ‘Siri’ takes off? In future, we may not even need fingers to call up websites?
  • If you cannot provide a good brand experience for the rapidly growing number of mobile users, you will lose opportunities and sales to competitors who can. If we are right, this could happen very quickly

To find out more about how the increasingly mobile world of digital brands will affect your business, please contact:

Peter Matthews
Nucleus Founder & CEO
December 2011

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