Amongst the hype of smartphone launches, new tablets, browser updates and wearable technology, it can be difficult to actually determine which technology is impacting most on our lives.
51Degrees.com is a company that detects devices accessing millions of different websites around the world. Each month the company collects data on more than 3.5 billion web sessions, from PCs, tablets, smartphones and other smart devices. Whilst the data that 51Degrees.com collects does not cover every single website in the world it is large enough to be considered a representative sample of what is going on more generally and, as such, provides some real insight into the technology hardware and software that impacts us most.
51Degrees.com collated information from the start of 2015 and the end of the year to see the trends that have shaped our use of technology in 2015.
Chrome rules the world
2015 was the year that Google’s Chrome browser overtook Microsoft Internet Explorer as the most popular way to browse on the desktop. At the start of the year Chrome had a 29 per cent share of web browsing sessions which had grown to almost 33 per cent by the end of the year, whilst Internet Explorer dropped from 35 per cent to 25 per cent in the same timeframe. This happened despite Microsoft’s repacking of Internet Explorer as Edge in Windows 10. The continued growth of Chrome (which was only launched late in 2008) demonstrates how combining Google’s search engines with its browser for an integrated and less clunky experience is driving successful adoption.
In the mobile world, the Chrome browser also grew by around 3 per cent, mostly at the expense of the default Android browser, but the leader for market share was Apple’s Mobile Safari, with almost half of all mobile web sessions taking place through this browser.
Apple still dominates mobile hardware
Apple’s iPhone range has been incredibly popular and this is reflected in the number of web sessions from smartphones. Almost half (growing from 46.46 to 47.15 per cent across 2015) of all web browsing from smartphones came from Apple devices. After this Samsung ruled, with more than 21 per cent of browsing sessions from smartphones across the range with the Galaxy S4 and S5 being the most popular devices in the Samsung range. It is interesting to note that the S6 is yet to hit the big time in terms of numbers of web sessions, suggesting that the incremental improvement provided by the latest Samsung device may not have wowed users to date.
The only good news for the other manufacturers of smartphones is that the market share of non-Samsung or Apple devices grew a little in 2015 from 32 to 34 per cent of all browsing sessions. This also means that in total slightly more internet activity comes from non-Apple smartphones than iPhones. Whilst new sales of non-Apple phones have outgrown iPhones in much of the world, this does show that people are hanging on to devices longer or selling them for second use. Even relatively old devices such as the Galaxy S2 and the Note 2 were still popular devices for browsing.
Tablets - a one horse race
Despite sluggish growth in sales for its tablets in 2016, Apple remains king of the castle in web browsing from tablets. Whilst the iPad’s share of browsing fell in 2015 from 72 to 71 per cent no other tablet came close to the iPad’s popularity. Notable mentions for the Google Nexus 7 and the Amazon Fire which both appeared in the top 10 tablets for browsing but both have an incredibly long way to go to become a significant threat to a market that Apple created and continues to dominate.
It is significant that the proportion of overall browsing from tablets dropped in 2015 from almost 9 per cent to around 7 per cent, demonstrating how the increase in screen size and usability of smartphones will be a significant threat to tablet popularity in the future. This will be offset to some extent by modern laptops which combine many of the features of tablets.
Screen size variations among smartphone devices accessing web sites altered during 2015. At the start of the year 4-5 inch screens and 5-6 inch screens were neck and neck representing 36 per cent of browsing each.
By the end of the year 5-6 inch screens had increased to 46 per cent whilst 4-5 inch screens represented only 32 per cent of browsing. Where consumers were initially sceptical about larger screen devices it seems that, at least in 2015, size really did matter in the end.