We now have 3 billion Internet users globally, that is getting close to half the world’s population, and that is a doubling of users in seven years up from 35 millions in 1995.
Not surprisingly USA is still the largest user followed by India and then China.
The increasing number of Smartphone users connected to the internet has also grown, but more slowly, with the largest increase to be found in the Asia Pacific area which now has 52% of the total number of users.
The disparity between Android and Apple’s iOS operating systems is also growing with Android expected to account for roughly 86% and Apple 14% of the total. Microsoft barely shows and is unlikely to amount to much in the foreseeable future.
Cost of buying a smartphone as you may expect also has an impact on numbers, and as we know Apple’s iPhones are generally rather more expensive than Android based units, but average retail price of a smartphone in different countries varies a good deal. As a percentage of the Gross National Income the highest percentage cost can be found in developing countries and the lowest in developed ones, thus in Ethiopia the percentage cost of a smartphone is around 48%, in Japan 0.6%.
Another matter the internet has helped to shape is our preferences as consumers, the internet advertising has grown rapidly compared to, say, TV or radio and retailing from shops or stores has also been subjected to technology changes and the way distribution works. We have lost many of our Department stores, shopping malls have flourished and e-commerce has come of age in a big way.
The latter is no big surprise as the under 15s as a percentage is increasing and the 15 -34 year olds comprise 25-27% of the population, most likely leading to their spending power rising significantly in the coming years. Where will they spend to buy? Again the internet looms large and from the 2% choosing to buy this way in 2000 we are looking at anything up to 10% today. This does not necessarily mean that we all buy from overseas, it could be from local sources, but via internet. You can shop for your groceries as easily as the new outfit or a pizza, because what we see is the coming together of technology and media advertising and distribution, the latter could even be by drone.
Most major retailers have websites where you can select and buy, and not forgetting that Google as well as the retailers will note your preferences and keep you well informed of new products of similar type to your earlier purchase so you don’t miss out. At least that is how they see it.
Since you are now always-on connected to the internet, the hyper-targeted marketing and the ability to send you images as well as being personalized, the retailers either directly or through some of the many other means like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Google will aim at providing you and every other customer with a differentiated shopping experience.
Yet another aspect is the social network where the young generation communicates with images, watching videos and streaming on- demand, using snapchat and periscope and Facebook live. Facebook alone has video viewing at 8 billion a day globally, and snapchat at 10 billion daily so these platforms will have enormous influence in the way their storytelling and messaging is delivered.
Obviously advertisers will use these methods in the future to ensure maximum results whether it is to sell you a new pair of shoes or donate to a charity and it will be possible for them to single out individual locations for their messages.
You will of course have heard of, or may be using, adblockers which are increasingly used by internet users much to disgust of advertisers, so some websites will not provide you with content unless the adblocker is removed from that site so cookies can be placed and adverts shown.
There is also the usage and sharing of photos on various platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and others which adds up to somewhere around 3+ billion per day, how do they ever find the time?, and some platforms like Pinterest is often used as an image-based platform to sell products. I get emails regularly from Pinterest and gather that some 60% are viewing photos and up to 55% are looking for and shopping for products from shown businesses.
We know from members that using texts or messaging are evolving into more expressive communications, emoji are now used frequently, and in Asian countries what started as social messaging has evolved into business and services uses such as bookings e.g. hotel rooms or talking with a shop that chats which then develops into a purchase of a product and finish with payment and shipping.
The younger you are – generation Y – the more likely you are to use internet/web chats or social media, the next generation X is most likely to use electronic messaging and phone, the Baby Boomers prefer the Phone and us oldies ditto, although email and sms would be the second choice.
Worldwide a day in the life of a mobile user means having 33 apps installed on your device, 12 of which are used daily, whilst only 3 of them accounts for 80%+ usage.
Where to from here. Well it looks as if voice will be the next human to computer interaction, Apple is expected to add Siri from the iPhone to the Mac computers and as we move from touch to voice think of the evolution in our interaction with the computer.
I still remember working with punchcard operated input which started back in 1832, and no, I wasn’t around then, then through mechanical keyboards to electronic ditto, paper tape and mainframe tapefeed. We had trackball and joysticks for mini and portable computers then the mouse and the pencil [PalmPilot] till we arrived at voice with Siri for the smartphone and now for ambient devices connected to the internet [refer the Internet of Things, IoT].
The advantages for voice input are clear, it is fast, hands free and convenient, no keyboard, and it has the ability to understand context based questions and instructions. You can use natural language and require just the microphone – present in most computers – and loudspeaker and a processor, also present in most devices.
The accuracy of voice recognition is presently around 99% and that has meant a big change because the fast response and accuracy is what such a system needs to become a game changer.
Since we are somewhat behind the USA with Siri, Google and apps for voice assistance it is worth noting that last year 65% of smartphone owners in the USA used voice assistants, no doubt owing to software improvements in these products and it fair to say that we here will be keen to make use of them when available.
There is another aspect that occurs to me and that is that voice interface will be great for visually impaired, no keyboard and hands free, let alone usage in the car or on the go. It will obviously also be a lot easier and faster to go shopping using a microphone that using menus in mobile apps.
Amazon introduced the Alexa Voice Platform which places microphones around the home to make it easier to shop with them and since they have something like 40-45 million subscribers in the US alone a fair percentage will likely install their ‘Echo’ system in their homes, another step closer to the IoT.
The last bit to talk about before I put you to sleep is what is happening to cars. Computerization is accelerating in leaps and bounds. Before the 1980s it was switches and wires to control the machinery, after that we moved to a central computer onboard to report and monitor performance, then in the 2000s we have gone to control gizmos, infotainment, phones. GPS, mapping and telematics. We now have up to 100 electronic units in a car with connectivity to internet embedded. And tomorrow? Perhaps car to car connections for autonomous self driving vehicles as well as connected to the infrastructure and maybe security as well. Just thinking about it one realizes that tomorrow isn’t far away and you can bet on seeing more change in the next 5 years than we have seen in the last 50.
Perhaps a good place to stop for what for some is a bewildering picture suited best to a younger world, but technology and innovation go hand in hand and we must attempt to pick what gives us the best advantage for an enjoyable retirement and getting the most out of life.
Do enjoy life to the fullest and let Kapiti SeniorNet help you keep up with the technology.
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