Global internet growth flattens; smartphone sales taper as the country leads
India emerged as the lone bright spot in the 2016 edition of annual Internet Trends report by Mary Meeker of investment firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB). While the global internet market grew at a flat 9% to touch 3 billion users, India was the only large market to notch double-digit growth at 43%. After overtaking the United States, India now has the second largest internet subscribers (277 million) after China (668 million). IAMAI expects the subscriber base to touch 426 million by end-June 2016. The growth potential is huge as internet penetration levels in India at 22% are half the global average of 42%. As internet access in India is via the mobile phone, smartphone growth is key to the rising internet base. The report also indicates global smartphone users growth slowing to 21% from the 31% last year. Global smartphone shipments growth too slipped to 10% from 28% last year. Smartphones retail in India at $158, the lowest after Bangladesh ($123) and account for 10% of the per capita income.
As smartphones proliferate, the use of images, messaging and voice interface is expected to rise sharply. Images are expected to grow in importance for searches while text as a medium of search is expected to gradually fade. Messaging, currently dominated by WhatsApp, Facebook and WeChat is expected to change from simple text-based conversations to expressive communication. Voice is also emerging as a computing input with the advent of the Amazon Echo—a smart speaker—that has seen demand rising sharply in the United States. Voice interfaces may be the way to go as they’re fast, easy, personalised, hands-free, and cheap.