- In 2022, adults in the U.S. spent over 5 hours daily on their phones.
- Mobile phones generated over 60% of website traffic in 2022, with desktops and tablets only generating about 39%.
- 25% of all digital media consumption is social media mainly accessed on mobile.
- Mobile users’ web searches increased by 5% since 2021.
- Worldwide smartphone subscriptions surpassed 6.5 billion in 2022.
You have the internet world in your palm … literally, if you have your smartphone resting there. It’s convenient and (usually) fast to use your mobile devices to access the internet, but have you ever wondered which is the better online experience: mobile or desktop?
It appears we are a world divided on that issue.
Along with the facts that social media makes up 25% of all digital media consumption and it is mainly accessed on mobile, half of all video views are on mobile and that 55% of page views in 2021 came from mobile phones, it’s clear we rely on our mobile devices to access the internet a lot.
However, with the expansion of 5G wireless networks and our transition away from 4G, our smart phones still can’t quite match the speeds we get from our home Wi-Fi or wired connections.
“5G can be significantly faster than 4G, delivering up to 20 Gbps peak data rates and 100+ Mbps average data rates,” according to Qualcomm.
When looking at mobile vs. desktop, we also need to factor in that for a large percentage of the world’s population, a mobile phone is their only link to the internet.
When having access to both types, most U.S. internet users will use a combination of them, depending on their objectives.
Pros and cons of mobile and desktop
Let’s look at some advantages and disadvantages of both ways to access the internet.
For a smartphone or other mobile devices like tablets or e-readers, the most obvious positive aspect is that it is mobile. What’s more fun than checking out a restaurant’s ratings before you go in or looking up an actor’s IMDb during a hot Oscar award discussion with friends?
For social media lovers, accessing those mobile-first apps like Instagram is as easy as a finger tap.
The biggest downside to surfing on your phone is the small screen. It can sometimes make reading those ratings, maps or bios pretty difficult.
It also takes a lot of self-discipline to put down that device and ignore the alerts or temptations to constantly scroll while we work, drive, study, interact with others and more.
For most of us, our keyboard and large screen are the best features for watching videos and scrolling our favorite blogs and sites.
But, it’s not always convenient to fire up your desktop or laptop computer. And let’s not forget those devices become outdated faster than our smartphones and updating hardware is expensive.
Space issues for a desktop and monitor can also be problematic if you have a smaller living situation.
Mobile vs. desktop speeds
Speed is king when we are on the internet. It’s easy to get quickly annoyed when confronted with that spinning “loading” icon. So, which gives you the faster, less troublesome experience?
As Ookla Speed Test results show us, based on over 500,000 results between August 2020 and December 2022, the average download speed of mobile lags a bit behind that of a desktop experience, at 114 Mbps vs. a computer’s 139 Mbps.
Upload speeds also are better on a computer, at 60 Mbps vs. 35 Mbps. But, remember, you most likely are not transferring or uploading files on your phone anyway.
Desktop wins in latency issues as well. Latency is the time it takes for data to travel from one point to another. Often called ping, latency defines how fast you are downloading or uploading data. For the most part, if you have the option, you’re most likely going to use a computer for those tasks rather than your smartphone. Our tests showed in 2022 that desktop latency ran at 36 milliseconds (ms), compared to mobile’s 46 ms.
Mobile and desktop have similar jitter rates, with 25 ms vs. 19 ms. “Jitter is when there is a time delay over your network connection. This is often caused by network congestion, and sometimes route changes.”
Network congestion is an issue with some 5G cell services, mainly in high-traffic times like 7 to 11 p.m., considered the peak internet traffic hours.
Mobile vs. Desktop usage
Looking at the trends in mobile vs. desktop usage, according to TechJury.net, over one year, “desktop internet usage dropped from 41.52% to 37.08%, while mobile users’ share marked an increase from 56.05% to 60.66%.”
It seems mobile device users expect a fast loading experience, with TechJury.net reporting from Marketing Dive that “53% of mobile website visits are abandoned if pages take longer than three seconds to load.”
They also report, via Neil Patel, that “40% of users are likely to abandon a desktop site if it doesn’t load within three seconds.”
As we mentioned in a prior section, the usage stats between mobile and desktop are about even, but it’s interesting to note that for social media, “9 in 10 – or 91% – of social media users use mobile devices to access social networks,” as reported by Oberlo.
Most social platforms have tailored their experience for the mobile user, so their interfaces are fast-loading, intuitive and have fewer steps to achieve your end goal.
Google processes over 99,000 searches every single second and 63% of Google’s US organic search traffic originates from mobile devices. We tend to use Google on our phones to search for food and beverage.
5G home internet
The 5G home internet expansion could be a game changer for internet users who want the best parts of a mobile experience in their home. Using cellphone towers, 5G providers send internet directly into a home and can reach speeds up to 1,000 Mbps in some areas.
The idea behind 5G tech for both phones and home use is that it transfers information faster. Ideally, this means fewer delays, buffering or lag when you are video chatting or gaming online.
Almost three-quarters (72.6 percent) of internet users will access the web solely via their smartphones by 2025, equivalent to nearly 3.7 billion people.
That corresponds with Ericsson’s mobility report finding that “5G mobile subscriptions are forecast to reach five billion in 2028.”
However, whether you use mobile or desktop to fulfill your internet needs in the best way depends on what you are trying to accomplish.
Zooming from home for a work meeting? Get in front of your computer for the best experience. Checking your credit card balance through an app? Grab your phone and tap away.
If you have an internet service provider bringing internet into your home, make sure you are getting the speed you need to handle the more complicated tasks that your smartphone just isn’t up to handling … yet. If you aren’t consider finding a new provider or upgrading your current plan.
Methodology and sources
Allconnect’s data shared in this article was drawn from over 500,000 U.S. speed test results between August 2020 and December 2022.
- Ericsson Mobility Report November 2022
Written by:Robin Layton
Editor, Broadband Content
Robin Layton is an editor for the broadband marketplace Allconnect. She built her internet industry expertise writing and editing for four years on the site, as well as on Allconnect’s sister site MYMOVE.com. … Read more
Edited by:Camryn Smith
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