Steve Jobs probably didn’t have India in mind when in 2010 he made his ambitious claim about the . Though Jobs was hoping the iPad â or the tablet category, in general â would replace bulky desktops and laptops, the world’s second most populous nation has embraced the post-PC era with cheap Android smartphones.
Indiaâs 1.3 billion people never really had their PC revolution moment. Instead, the smartphone is increasingly becoming the countryâs primary choice of computing platform, leapfrogging the PC age entirely. Whether itâs how people in India connect to the internet or shop or socialize, itâs already become clear that the country is living in the post-PC era.
400 million new smartphone users to join soon
The worldâs fastest growing smartphone market by several estimates, India hit in the country late last year. According to several projections, the country is about to see hundreds of millions of new smartphone users in the next four years. A recent Nasscom and Akamai report claims India will have over 730 million internet users and 702 million smartphone users by 2020.
Counterpoint Research, a market research firm, predicts India will have a billion smartphone users in the next five years. According to the firm, India currently has over 700 million mobile phones, out of which 250 million are smartphones.
Indians are mostly using their phones to shop, socialize
Out of the 142 million users in India who access Facebook every month, at least 133 million of them were accessing the site from their phones. WhatsApp, which is also owned by Facebook, has over 100 million users who use the service every month. Indians are showing similar interest in other services.
Indiaâs largest online retailer Flipkart reached 75 million registered users earlier this year. Though the company hasnât shared the desktop-mobile breakup of its users, its Android app on Google Play has been downloaded more than 50 million times, suggesting that a huge chunk of its users are on mobile. Paytmâs mobile wallet app similarly has over 100 million users.
With smartphones quickly becoming ubiquitous in the country, we are expected to see further shift in the way we use these services. The Nasscom-Akamai report released this week notes that as much as 70 percent of all online retail and half of the travel bookings will be done on mobile devices in the next four years.Â
More Indians access the Internet on their mobile phones than PCs
Perhaps one of the biggest indicators that India is living in the post-PC era is how people in the country consume the internet. As of April 2016, India had 17.05 million subscribers of wired broadband connections, giving us a backhand estimate of how many PCs are being used in the country. In contrast, there were 133.49 million mobile devices â phones and dongles â connected to the internet, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.
A study by Statista had a similar finding, which says that there are 375 million internet users in the country of which 303 million are active mobile internet users. âWith only a third of the population connected to Internet, India is potentially one of the largest countries where majority of the users are using mobile phones as primary devices to connect to the internet for the first time,â says Tarun Pathak of Counterpoint Research.
Indians really love accessing the internet on their phones
Google’s free Wi-fi at railway stations in India is already attracting over 1.5 million people. Though the free internet service is only available in 19 cities so far, Google said recently that people were using 15 times more data than they typically do on their typical 3G data plans. Telecom gear maker Ericsson estimates that mobile data usage per person in India will grow five times from 1.4GB last year to 7GB by 2021.
India is uniquely positioned to continue its growth as a mobile-driven nation. The vast majority of smartphones sold in the country are priced under $150. As affordable smartphones get better at what they do, they are positioned to become the first computing device of millions of people in the country. The price sensitive market further illustrates why mobile phones will continue to drive India in the next few years.
But these growth rates and the significance they hold in peopleâs lives also reveal how important it is that the country overcomes the roadblocks to enhance the experience of the consumers. Poor connectivity remains one of the biggest issues across Indian cities and rural areas. This week Google India’s country-head for public policy, Chetan Krishnaswamy, said that even in 2020 one-third of Indian users are estimated to be on slow 2G data networks.
âItâs critical for the players in the mobile ecosystem to address the bottlenecks (seamless connectivity, Internet speed, vernacular support, easy access to information, device ecosystem etc), otherwise these factors might slow down further adoption,â Pathak added.
Language is another such barrier. Hindi is the most spoken language in the country, for instance, but its presence is minimal on the web. âIts [Hindiâs] demand is growing five times more each year, but sadly, only 0.1 per cent Hindi content is available on the web,â Google’s Chetan said.Â
There are millions of people who would prefer seeing content in their own native language, but nothing much is being done on this front.Â