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How Chinese Cellular Addiction is a Predictor for Worldwide Mobile Behavior

The frequency of mobile internet use in China is changing. As of this year, mobile internet users access the internet for an average time period of 3.5 hours.  This is a half-hour longer than last year’s average, but that’s not the catch. This increase is not to be attributed to the amount of more times mobile users access the internet, but instead that they access the internet fewer times for longer periods on a daily basis.

This year, according to China Internet Watch, mobile users in China access the internet on a daily average of 11 times a day.  This is slightly less than last year’s daily average of 14 times.  It seems the new trend for mobile internet is users is to go online for longer periods and less frequently, quite simple, right?

So, what exactly does this mean?

For starters, it hints at the possibility people are accessing larger amounts of information, which would take longer to process.  Downloading on mobile internet is significantly slower than downloading on a fixed device. The acceptable download time for mobile internet users in China is ten minutes.

Other explanations could be linked to the fact that more and more mobile users are utilizing sophisticated apps.  It would only make sense that the more complex apps become the more time we will spend using them.  For example, there was a time when the Facebook mobile app did not implement Facebook’s chat feature. Mobile Facebook users at this time still could only perform actions such as approve friends requests, update statuses, and message others users by writing a message on their profile pages or through an inbox feature. These were all actions that would not keep the mobile Facebook user busy for a timeframe that was too significant.  Soon after the mobile app implemented the chat feature, it immediately allowed users to remain on the app for extended periods of time to communicate with other users through instant messaging.  This instantly transformed Facebook mobile from a quick check-up of one’s account on-the-go, to a cornerstone of communication, all the while minimizing the amount of times a user accesses the app by maximizing the efficiency and time spent for each use.

So, what does all of this user behavior predict for the future of mobile internet? As China is the world’s leading country in mobile internet traffic with a whopping 420 million users, it is safe to hypothesize that as other countries experience exponential growth in traffic they will soon follow suit.  It is only right then to analyze the data of China’s mobile internet trends in order to forecast what will happen to the rest of the world in mobile internet.  As time goes on, human dependence on cellular devices (smartphones, tablets) will become more and more prevalent in day-to-day life, much like it already has.

The social effects of cell phone usage are widespread. Over the past couple years apps have transformed into a conduit between humans and the physical world.  On a daily basis, people pay more attention to their phones than anything else.  More and more, apps have drastically reduced the amount of physical interactions people have with the world and each other.  In 2007, PBS posted an article titled “How Cell Phones Are Killing Face-to-Face interactions”.  The article cites two separate studies.  One study reported by the University of Florida reported Japanese children often will not make friends with other children without cell phones.  The other was a British study that reported 7% of college students had lost a relationship or job as a result of cell phone usage.  Those studies were reported 6 years ago, without the great influx of cell phone usage that the popularity of apps is now responsible for.  Just imagine what those numbers would look like now.

So, what’s the verdict? Will the gap of interaction between the physical world and the humans (along with human-to-human interaction) soon turn into a void increasingly filled by apps? You decide. Only time will tell.

Written by Gyasi Cooper

Edited by Matt Johnson

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