How middle class is the mobile web?

This morning I found a link to this interesting post on ‘The Mobile Web in Numbers’ in my Twitter stream and I decided to do a bit of maths. Among lot’s of interesting stats, the post starts with the following numbers:

5.9 billion is the estimated number of mobile subscriptions worldwide in 2011.
13% is the smartphone share of all mobile handsets in use worldwide.

This means, we are talking worldwide about 767 million smartphones opposed to nearly 6 billion mobile phones, and according to the post 75 million of them are Apple iPhones. Far less, for example, than the estimated 850 million users of Facebook. So here is my question: Are we making too much of a fuzz about it? Have we already ended up in a personalized bubble, when we assume everyone has an iPhone, Blackberry or Android device? Or will get one, just because most executives use them?


As you can see in this picture, my personalized bubble consists of no-smartphone users who bugged me a bit with being very proud of it, but then there was the Provence

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t doubt that the web is about to move from the computer to other devices, and digital information will soon be everywhere. However, I have two objections.

1: This takes a bit of time – we are not there yet, but we pretend to. Is the reason for this sheer marketing? Like everyone should feel in need of a new product? Read, for example, this sentence taken from a study of IBM : “Additionally, mobile sales grew dramatically, reaching 6.6%”. Is this number of 6.6% really one where we should use the word ‘dramatically’? Or is ‘dramatically’ used to suggest: ‘My dear, don’t miss this?’

On top, the tablet hype. We can count nearly 7 billion humans in the world, and among them we have 10.3 million tablet users in 2010 with an estimated 82.1 million tablet users expected in 2015. Well. Facebook is a country, but even in the Western world 10.3 million tablets are not even really a mega city yet. It’s clearly a device for an elite. Which takes us to objection two.

2: There is no doubt that the internet is on its way to leave the computer, but I am not sure if mobile usage will become the new norm anytime soon. It might be that often we just stress the use of these devices as normal, because we fight for the digital public to be acknowledged in the traditional public sphere. However, taking apps as well as tablets or smartphones as naturally given despite the actual numbers is about to become a problem. When we focus on them as if they are mainstream, we simply show that the digital divide is already there: it is happening in our heads, and we set ourselves as the new norm.

File under: #digitaldilemma or am I just a victim of a London underground which has no reception? You tell me.

1 Response to “How middle class is the mobile web?”


  1. 1 Martin Zimdars

    The mobile web isn´t middlecalss; it´s classless ;-)
    Only exception: Young urban professionals (if you count them to middle class) ;-)

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