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Internet use in India proves desktops are only for Westerners

India Internet Controls
AP Photo/Altaf Qadri
Bypassing the desktop.
  • Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter

This article is more than 2 years old.

The next billion internet users are ditching computers for pocket-friendly phones.

Globally, half of all internet users got online in February 2017 using mobile devices, and over 45% visited the web on desktops during the same time period. In countries like the UK and US, where more than eight in 10 have access to the internet, people got online using phones over a third of the time. In India, the split was leaning heavily toward mobile use: Indians accessed the internet through their mobiles nearly 80% of the time.

“Our research confirms that Indians adore their mobiles for surfing the internet,” Tarak Desai of StatCounter, Mumbai, said. “Internet usage by mobile in India is striking compared to that in most other countries.” Desai attributed part of the success to the latest entrant to India’s $50-billion telecom sector: Reliance Jio. The Mukesh Ambani-led venture lured over 100 million subscribers by offering one gigabyte (GB) a day of free 4G. It also ignited price wars that drove data prices in the country down by nearly 20%.

Besides data, smartphones, too, have become more affordable amid competition. Recently, Chinese brands have won over Indian audiences by manufacturing locally to drive down costs, creating smartphones with bigger screens and an improved user interface, spending heavily on marketing, setting up retail stores, and even adding local language support. At the end of last year, four out of the top five brands of smartphone shipments in the country—Vivo, Xiaomi, Lenovo, and Oppo—were Chinese.

For those reluctant to switch to smartphones, 4G feature phones with long battery lives and simple, easy-to-use designs serve as the online connection. Close to 200 million 4G feature phones are projected to sell in India over the next five years, according to Counterpoint Research.

Data shows that India has clearly leapfrogged the desktop generation. The country holds the title for mobile internet usage among G20 nations. Others like Indonesia and South Africa, where desktops are significantly more expensive than mobile phones and power issues are widespread, are close behind.

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