Germany already has the largest online population in Western Europe. Fully 63.0 million residents will access the internet at least once a month this year, eMarketer estimates. But how are they getting online? BITKOM surveyed 777 consumers ages 14 and older in the country in November 2014 to learn which devices they used to access the web. This was a relatively small sample, but the data can be taken as broadly indicative of behavioral trends.
Notebooks had become the most popular route to the internet. More than two-thirds (68%) of respondents used one to go online in the previous three months, compared with 65% who mentioned a desktop PC. But mobile devices made a strong showing, too. One in every two consumers had gone online with a smartphone, and 25% had used a tablet.
Timm Hoffmann, a BITKOM expert on consumer electronics, commented on the results: “The trend in internet use is shifting to more compact devices. But in terms of internet access, [tablets and smartphones] are adding to usage via notebooks and desktops rather than replacing it.”
Younger respondents ages 14 to 29 in Germany opted for notebooks and smartphones in larger numbers, BITKOM found. In this age bracket, 76% used a notebook to go online, and 61% used a smartphone. As a result, the percentage accessing via desktop slipped to 57% in this cohort. Tablet access was also slightly lower than in the total sample, at 22%. The price of tablets may have been a factor here.
Among seniors ages 65 and older, desktops were by far the most popular, used by 74%. Two in five (40%) used a notebook, and 18% went online with a smartphone. Perhaps surprisingly, given their larger screens and ease of use, tablets scored just 11%. As in the youngest group of respondents, the cost of a tablet was likely a deterrent—and the fact that smartphones perform a much wider range of functions.
Of course, most consumers in Germany have more than one web-enabled gadget these days. In the BITKOM study, 72% said they went online with two or more devices. Of that group, 42% used two devices, and 30% said they used three or more. On the other hand, 26% were still accessing the internet with just one device. And among respondents ages 65 and older, that proportion was extremely high, at 60%.
eMarketer estimates that about two-thirds of mobile phone users in Germany will use their phones to access the web at least monthly in 2015. In addition, 31.0 million people—almost half of all internet users in the country—are expected to have a tablet. Rising penetration of both smartphones and tablets will fuel much higher rates of multidevice internet access in the future.