Boingo Snapshot: Trends We See With Mobile Devices


SNAPSHOT: Laptop and Mobile Breakout

There are more mobile devices than laptops in our airports today.

SNAPSHOT: Mobile Device Breakout

iOS Commands an 83% Marketshare of Non-laptop Devices in Our Airports

SNAPSHOT: Data Consumption by Mobile Devices

Megabytes per minute climbs every year; people increasingly expect a rich online experience

This morning we distributed something we like to call the “Wi-Fi Snapshot” [DOWNLOAD]. It’s a collection of statistics that we think are interesting, based on what kinds of Wi-Fi enabled devices our web server sees in the 60 airports where we run the network.  It also includes some metrics based on connection/session data we’ve logged over the hundreds of thousands of hotspots that comprise our network.

The most significant data point is that for the first time in our history, mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) make up a majority of the Wi-Fi device audience. In June, 58.9% of all Wi-Fi enabled devices that loaded our walled garden page (where we ask if you want to log in or buy access) were not laptops. And 83% of those devices were running iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch). This is in stark contrast to 2007, when laptops represented 99.9% of all devices we saw, and most of the other 0.1% were Win CE devices (Pocket PC, Windows Mobile).

Another key indicator is the explosive growth of iPads in the marketplace. Remember that when Apple announced the iPad, many pundits claimed the tablet was a product that no one wanted. It wasn’t small enough to be conveniently portable, and it wasn’t capable enough to be really useful. Well, I guess they were wrong, since it now represents almost a quarter of all non-laptop devices in airports. While the overall market is growing, the iPad appears to be making traction largely at the expense of the iPod Touch.

The other trend we’d like to point out is that average mobile device data consumption is up 31% year over year on a per minute basis. That means that people are spending more time watching video or streaming music during their sessions, instead of doing lower-bandwidth activities like email or web browsing. At a time when mobile operators are eliminating unlimited data plans in favor of tiered pricing, users are increasing their data consumption. These two trends will likely intersect in the near future, to the consumer’s detriment (higher bills) and the operator’s benefit (more revenue). Fortunately, it appears that Wi-Fi is poised to save the day for consumers, providing a cost-effective solution to enjoying this rich multimedia online experience, while avoiding data overages on their cellphone data plans.

Let us know what you think in the comments below, or ask questions about related trends you might be wondering out.

About Christian

Christian Gunning -- Boingo's vice president of corporate communication -- has been with the company since its beginning in 2001. Always willing to regale you with stories of the early days when Wi-Fi was still called 802.11b and we had to explain how you could get the Internet without a wire, he's grown to love the new world where wireless Internet is expected.
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6 Responses to Boingo Snapshot: Trends We See With Mobile Devices

  1. Andy Hall says:

    iPhones account for upto 40% whereas Android Phones only account for 10%. Considering that this is a massive difference from market share figures in USA and Europe (one would expect Android to outpace iPhones), I’d be very interested to hear your official opinion on why this might be the case :D?

    • Christian says:

      It’s a great question, and I don’t think there is an absolute answer, as there are probably multiple forces affecting the disparity.

      1. I think some of it is because the iOS devices “prefer” Wi-Fi and roll over to it if an open network is available. I’m starting to notice this more and more with my Android phone with the latest OS update, but it’s been the dominant behavior on my iPhone for several years.
      2. I think some of it is because of the “iPhone effect” on AT&T’s 3G network — in places where there are a lot of people congregated (like airports), the network congestion can make mobile data painful, so the OS preference for Wi-Fi has translated to a user preference for Wi-Fi when available.
      3. A lot of Android devices are on Verizon’s 3G network, which has handled the data volume pretty well, so users are less inclined to look for a better data solution (though I’m now starting to see some congestion on Verizon’s 3G network in large venues that I didn’t see a year ago).
      4. And I’ve seen some demographic info that shows because Androids have greater discounts at the point of sale (or are free with plan), the users have less disposable income and tend to restrict their activities to non-commercial activities (so premium Wi-Fi doesn’t fit into their experience).

      Ultimately, I would guess it’s a combination of the above, as well as other forces that haven’t yet hit our radar. The experience on the two devices is pretty different — not radically so, but sufficiently different to impact how users choose to use their devices. I guess we’ll keep watching the trends to see if there’s meaningful movement that will provide more insight.

  2. Karl says:

    A great article made confusing by the mistated first sentence in the second paragraph. (Laptops shouldn’t be there.)

  3. Please could you clarify an issue for me. What exactly are you measuring when you talk about connections or devices?

    If boingo is talking about all connections, iOS use will likely be over-represented compared to Android. But if boingo is talking about unique connections (ie the number of different devices that connect) then that would not be an issue.

    (1) When I check my email using iOS, images are enabled by default, so pictures are loaded over your network, leading to more connections and larger data volumes.

    (2) But when I check my email, using GMail on Android (or my laptop), images are disabled by default, so less pictures are loaded over your network, leading to less connections and less data volumes.

    Please could you confirm what the situation is. Is boingo reporting total connections/devices or unique connections/devices?

    • Christian says:

      We are counting unique devices per day. So a device is only counted once, regardless of how much activity it generates. If it comes back the next day, it would be counted again, but it would still only count as one for that day. Since airports (where most of the data is generated) are highly nomadic, there is some multiple counting of devices over a month’s time, but since the uniques are effectively counted each day, the person would have to leave the location and return to generate an additional count whether it is the next day or the next week.

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