How Much Online Traffic Comes from Mobile Devices?

Posted on by

We know people spend a lot of time on their smartphones, but how much online traffic actually comes from mobile devices?

Questions like this are good to answer, because they help us:

1. Understand how people behave and interact with the world.

2. Guide our decision making as marketers, representatives, owners, and business people in general.

The better we understand customer behavior, the better decisions we can make. And since customers spend so much time online, it’s important to know how they get there (and find our companies).

Below I’ll give you a brief history of mobile online traffic, explain why it matters, and share some advice on what you can do with this information.

What counts as a mobile device?

Devices are normally divided into two categories: desktop and mobile.

Desktop refers to laptops and desktop computers. Mobile normally refers to smartphones and tablets (like iPads), but sometimes includes other portable devices (like handheld gaming consoles and e-readers).

Mobile and Desktop Device Usage by Time of Day

PC: Smart Insights

So when you see “desktop” below, you can think of desktop computers and laptops. When you see “mobile,” you can think of smartphones and tablets.

Other times, you’ll see smartphones or tablets referenced specifically.

Here’s a brief history of mobile devices and the internet.


There’s some debate about this, but mobile broadband became available in 1991 as part of the second generation (2G) of mobile phone technology. The first commercial smartphone was shipped 5 years later in 1996, by Nokia.

Nokia First Commercial Smartphone

In 2003, the PalmOne Treo became popular for a minute before BlackBerry took over. Then, in 2007, the iPhone changed the game.

Today – just a decade later – it’s estimated that 82% of American adults own a smartphone. In fact, so many people have smartphones today that smartphone sales have effectively leveled off.


There’s also some debate around the first tablets. Technically, the first tablet was created in 1956, but the first tablet as we know them today came from a Microsoft/Lenovo partnership in 2000.

Bill Gates with Microsoft Tablet Circa 2000

PC: Reuters

Plenty of people used these, but tablets didn’t become popular until Apple launched the iPad in 2010. Today, tablets make up a minority of mobile device usage.

Online engagement

These devices have taken us all by storm, and in 2014, mobile internet traffic overtook desktop internet traffic for the first time (more details below).

In 2015, Google unleashed “Mobilegeddon,” which was an update to their search algorithms specifically for mobile users.

Particularly since Mobilegeddon, mobile internet usage has become ubiquitous. The average smartphone user now spends over 4 hours a day on their mobile phone, surfing the web, shopping, and more.

The average smartphone user now spends over 4 hours a day on their mobile phone.

Through all of this, the average American consumer has become mobile-first. In other words, most people will turn to their smartphones before turning to their computers, or even their friends.

Other behaviors have changed, too. Today, we know that:

So how much online traffic comes from mobile devices today?

Let’s look at a few recent studies.

In June 2014, comScore reported that mobile devices accounted for about 60% of online traffic in the U.S. Other studies echoed a similar figure shortly after.

Fast forward to 2016, and we find several reports of mobile devices accounting for anywhere from 55% to 65% of online traffic!

Mobile Share of Total Digital Minutes

PC: comScore (Note: includes online and offline digital media)

Each study found a unique result, but they all had one thing in common: Mobile devices continued to account for more online traffic year-over-year.

At the time of this writing (towards the end of 2017), there’s been another update to the research.

What is it today?

In October, Zenith released their latest Mobile Advertising Forecasts report, showing that mobile devices now account for 70% of internet usage worldwide, and 77% of internet usage in the U.S.!

Zenith Mobile Share of Internet Online Traffic

PC: MarketingCharts

In other words, 7 out of 10 minutes spent online comes from smartphones and tablets (mostly smartphones) – closer to 8 out of 10 minutes if you live in the U.S.!

7 out of 10 minutes spent online comes from smartphones and tablets – closer to 8 out of 10 minutes if you live in the U.S.

If you work in any kind of a customer-based business this research is crucial for you to understand (and act on). Here’s why.

So, what does this mean?

Basically, this means your average adult chooses to use their phone to find:

  • Answers to their questions
  • Solutions to their problems
  • Products they want
  • And entertainment

It means most Americans (at least those 18-55 y.o.) have adapted to a mobile-first way of getting information and accomplishing tasks. So how can you apply this to your business?

What should a business do with this information?

You need to make mobile the focal point of any online strategy. It can be a tough shift to make, so here are several things you can do to help.

Mobile-first website

It’s been common for years to craft a mobile-responsive website, but it’s not enough to just work on mobile devices anymore. Your company needs to thrive on mobile.

The next time you update your website (which might be something you should do now), design your website around the mobile experience.

Should trends keep up at all like they are (and research suggests they will), you’ll gain more value in SEO, user experience, and sales by focusing on mobile viewers first.

AMP pages

Accelerated Mobile Pages are essentially a stripped down version of HTML, uniquely created to make your pages load super fast.


It was designed for publishers, but can be used by anyone with a blog.

The average mobile website takes 19 seconds to load (on 3G speeds), even though 53% of web pages that take longer than 3 seconds to load are abandoned.

Do use see the problem?

If most people find you through mobile devices, but leave before your site even loads, you’re going to miss out on most of your business opportunities.

Messaging for customer communications

9 out 10 people want to message a business. Do you make that easy for them?

Consumers can now text you through your Google My Business ListingGoogle (Adwords) adsInstagram profile, and – if you play your cards right – through your own website.

Plus, there’s always Facebook Messenger.

Text Request Mobile Google Business Listing

The only thing is you need a way to handle these conversations. See the links in the paragraph above, or click the phone number to text us (if you’re on mobile). (423) 218-0111

Tailored emails

The majority of emails today are opened on mobile devices. What people expect in mobile emails is also different than what they expect (or want) from desktop emails.

For more details on how to tailor your emails for mobile devices, view our guide: How Does Mobile Email Engagement Compare to Desktop Rates?

Return Path Where Are People Reading Emails Study

Bring it together.

As technology changes, so does culture. Today that means Americans spend a lot of time “connected,” and most of this time is shared by mobile devices.

More than 3/4 of total time spent on the internet is accounted for by mobile devices. You could say we’re all addicted, but the best thing to do for your business is follow suit.

Business 101 says go where your customers are. Your customers are on their smart phones and tablets, looking for things to read and buy and generally engage with.

Where are you?

Related: How Much Time Do People Spend on Their Mobile Phones in 2017?