Market Snapshot: Desktop and Mobile Internet Use in 2020

Desktop and mobile internet use is increasing thanks to the coronavirus pandemic – but how much of a boost are they getting in 2020? Here the experts at describe the market for us in 2020.

A world without the Internet is almost impossible to imagine. The internet connects us to information, resources, and each other, and has a profound impact on the way we live our lives. Globally, more than 4.57 billion people are active Internet users, and that number is growing every day.

As technology evolves, the ways in which people access the Internet are changing rapidly. What started out as a network connecting desktop computers almost exclusively to the World Wide Web quickly evolved into a mobile-dominated network. Today’s internet-connected devices include everything from laptops and tablets to smartphones, and in the developed world, even vehicles and refrigerators.

The rise of mobile devices and smartphones has dramatically changed the statistics of Internet usage, from an Internet dominated by desktop computers to a landscape dominated by mobile. It is fascinating to explore the statistics of internet usage on mobile and desktop computers, and that is exactly what this article will do.

Internet usage statistics on mobiles and desktops in 2020 (worldwide)

Today, the majority of internet traffic comes from mobile sources (and mainly smartphones). Globally, the latest statistics indicate that approximately 50.88% of all internet traffic can be attributed to mobile devices / smartphones.

In 2020, here is the global distribution of Internet traffic:

  • 50.88% mobile
  • 46.39% office
  • 2.74% tablet

For those reading this article on a desktop computer, this information may surprise you. But from a global perspective, the numbers make sense. The most important factor behind the dominance of mobile in the world is the affordability of mobile devices and smartphones.

The transition from office to Mobile internet Access

What’s fascinating to think about is how quickly the Internet has gone from being almost exclusively desktop-driven to primarily mobile-driven. Just ten years ago, in 2010, over 97% of all global web traffic came from desktops. Today, that figure is only 46%. The first time mobile topped the desktop in terms of total market share was in 2016.

Several factors have contributed to this rapid change. More particularly, the rise of the smartphone completely changed the landscape. In the developed world, the vast majority of adults own smartphones. In the United States, for example, more than 81% of citizens are smartphone users, according to 2019 Pew Research data. The introduction of smartphones has made it easier for people to access the Internet when they want and wherever they are.

In developing countries, smartphones have had an even greater impact on the use of mobile internet. About 45% of people in emerging economies own or have access to a smartphone. The percentage of mobile users in the developing world is growing rapidly, and mobile use is a major driver of the spread of Internet access to the world’s population. Internet-connected mobile devices provide an accessible and affordable way to access the web in emerging economies.

The shift from office to mobile has forced businesses and organizations to make significant changes. 10 years ago, the common advice was that every business needs a website. Now it is essential to have a mobile site, or at least mobile-friendly web pages.

Types of Internet use on the desk and Mobile devices

Of course, the type of activities that Internet users perform on their mobile devices are significantly different from the typical Internet activities that are performed on desktop computers. Global data on the subject is scarce, but here is a breakdown of the data in the United States:

Search engine activity

  • About 58% of all search engine activity on Google comes from mobile searches, compared to about 40% on desktops. Computer search activity also differs from mobile searches in several ways.
  • For example, the volume of local search queries (such as “restaurants near me”) has declined among desktop users, but continues to increase exponentially for those searching on mobile phones.

Use of social media

  • About 83% of all social media visits come from mobile devices, compared to around 15% from desktop or laptop computers.
  • In fact, about half of social media users alone use mobile devices to access the social network of their choice. This can be largely attributed to the popularity of social media apps on smartphones and the increased use of smartphones in general.


  • About 28% of online e-commerce sales are made via mobile devices, compared to over 70% on desktop computers. Interestingly, it seems that people like to browse e-commerce apps on mobile devices, but prefer to make their actual purchases on desktop computers.
  • The conversion rate (or percentage of visits that results in an actual sale) was around 4.14% on desktops, compared to just 1.53% on mobile devices.
  • For e-commerce businesses, mobile traffic accounts for the lion’s share of total traffic, but a much smaller percentage of revenue. As online shopping becomes more popular, ecommerce businesses will need to adapt mobile website designs to help improve conversions.

Web browsing

  • When it comes to browsing the web (outside of specific mobile apps), the desktop remains dominant. While mobile visits made up 58% of searches in the United States, they only made up about 42% of the total time spent online. In other words, more individual searches are done on mobile, but more time is spent browsing the web on desktops.


Online games remain extremely popular on desktops and mobile devices. Statistics are hard to measure across so many different platforms and categories, but we can get an overview of what data is available.

  • In terms of spending, around 25% of gaming revenue comes from PC gamers, compared to 28% from game consoles and 47% from mobile games. Part of this disconnect can be explained by the prohibitive costs of desktop gaming devices, compared to the relatively low cost of mobile gaming devices and smartphones.

Read the full overview and analysis here.

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