Once upon a time, 2007 to be exact, if you wanted to use the Web on your phone, you had access to only a limited subset of it via Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) (PDF). Then along came the iPhone and 4G, bringing us smartphones and broadband, and six years later, 21 percent of smartphone users use their phones, not their PCs or tablets, as their main way to access the Internet.
Things have changed.
To be precise, a Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project survey has found that "Nearly two thirds (63 percent) of cell phone owners now use their phone to go online. That's twice as many as those who used their phones to go to the Web in 2009," the survey noted:
One third of these cell internet users (34 percent) mostly use their phone to access the internet, as opposed to other devices like a desktop, laptop, or tablet computer. We call these individuals "cell-mostly internet users", and they account for 21 percent of the total cell owner population. Young adults, non-whites, and those with relatively low income and education levels are particularly likely to be cell-mostly internet users.
At the same time, Pew found that smartphone Internet usage has increased since April 2012. This includes the college-educated, and the financially well off. "Notably, cell owners between the ages of 50 and 64 experienced a larger-than-average 15 percentage point increase in the past year. Some 51 percent of cell owners ages 50-64 now use their phone to go online, up from 36 percent who did so in the spring of 2012."
This is taking us to a world where PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) expects global spending on mobile internet access to exceed fixed broadband spending in 2014. PwC expects that "mobile internet revenue will be worth $259 billion in 2014".
The takeaway? You really, really need to make sure that your Website is mobile friendly. If you don't, you'll have alienated as much as a fifth of your potential audience.