After a week of U.S. travel, I spent some time yesterday looking at how much data I’d consumed on my laptop, iPad and iPhone. I was amazed at the results. I shouldn’t be. Looking back I realise that I barely used my laptop. My iPad is rapidly becoming my mobile office. Emails, video conferencing, document sharing, Twitter. This is no longer a tool purely for mobile consumption but is now a device for mobile productivity. Looking again at my data usage, even my iPhone outstripped my laptop. Needless to say, I’m expecting a congratulatory note from my mobile service provider later this month.

Looking at Akami’s latest State of the Internet report, it appears that I’m not alone in my use of mobile devices. The first quarter of 2011 has seen enormous growth in the demand for mobile data with an increase of 130% over the same time period in 2010. This is an incredible figure and is partly due to the explosion in smartphone and tablet devices. It’s interesting to note that over half the phones sold in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2011 were smartphones. This is a trend that appears set to continue for the rest of the year.

However, it’s the growth in popularity and usage of the tablet, specifically the iPad, which fascinates me. The iPad has only been on the market for 15 months and has already become the fastest selling mobile device. As of June 2011, over 25 million iPads have been sold. A figure that will no doubt have increased rapidly in July as global stocks of the iPad 2 replenish. As of now, the iPad counts for 1% of all web browsing. This is an amazing figure and hints at the amount of data that iPad users consume, especially when we consider that web browsing is perhaps the least appealing of the iPad’s capabilities.

As you may expect, it’s video where the iPad shines. According to a report from Allot Communications, video accounts for 39% of all mobile traffic and grew a staggering 69% in the first half of 2011. Of this traffic, YouTube accounts for a total of 52%. These are all impressive figures and I’m sure Google will be thrilled to see its continued dominance of the mobile video market. Yet what happens as more tablets hit the stores? We’ve already seen a raft of new Android devices in the past few months and now Blackberry and HP are also joining the party. One gets the feeling that we’re still only at the precipice here in regards to mobile data.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the continued demand for mobile data is leading to what some are calling the age of WiFi. As my bill from last week’s trip to the U.S. highlights, access to 3G data costs. As such, we’re seeing tremendous increases in WiFi offload enabled partly by the rapid growth in WiFi blankets. A recent study from Meraki highlights this trend and notes that iPad users now consume 400% more WiFi data than smartphone users. This figure will only grow as forecasts expect to see a further 50 million iPads to be sold by the end of the year.

Apart from the incredible growth and the interesting figures, I find the iPad captivating for another more cultural reason and it’s the development of the connected lifestyle. There can be no question that we’re increasingly becoming an online society. Social engagement, education, retail, healthcare, more and more of our lives revolve around the Internet and online activities. The iPad is increasingly becoming the centre of this connected life. It’s a book, it’s a music device, it’s a video conferencing platform, it’s a productivity tool, it’s a TV, it’s a remote control: It’s the one device that has the potential to become the central focus of our lives. I find this fascinating.

Yet there are still many obstacles to overcome. Although the device maybe able to offer a connected experience, our global networks can’t. I lost track of the times I spent reconnecting video conferences in the U.S. or trying to sync documents or stream music. The stability and availability of mobile broadband connectivity is still a key concern and a real motivator in trying to move forward with further WiFi coverage. Yet even with frustrations, the possibilities are incredible.

What are your experiences with mobile broadband? Do you find yourself using the iPad more than your other devices? Do you believe that it will become the centre of our connected lives? Let me know what your thoughts are on this one.