Thought leadership

Consumers around the world are rushing into the embrace of the smartphone market, according to new figures from eMarketer on mobile usage globally. By the end of this year, we predict, 1.76 billion people will own and use smartphones monthly, up more than 25% over 2013.


Just under a quarter of the world's total population will use smartphones this year, and by 2017, more than a third of all people around the globe will be smartphone users. eMarketer's estimates for smartphone users account for the number of individuals who own and use smartphones, regardless of the number of smartphones each of those individuals might have.

The total figure does not tell the entire story of global smartphone usage, and advanced handsets have already saturated more than half the population in many countries, or will in the next few years.

"By 2015, we estimate that 15 countries worldwide will have seen more than half their populations adopt smartphones," says Monica Peart, senior forecasting analyst, eMarketer. "The embrace of mobile technology among nearly 500 million people in these countries will have wide-ranging influence on media usage, ecommerce and marketing."

Consumers in the Asia-Pacific region will account for more than half of all global smartphone users this year, eMarketer estimates, totaling 951 million. South Korea is the world leader in terms of smartphone penetration, and these devices were in the hands of more than half its residents as early as 2012. Australia followed closely behind, becoming the only other country in Asia-Pacific to have more than half its population using smartphones in 2013; this year, Japan will reach the 50% tipping point as well. China will not reach majority-smartphone status until 2018; however, its smartphone user base is already by far the largest in the world — totaling 521.7 million this year, eMarketer projects. Other emerging markets in Asia-Pacific will not reach 50% smartphone penetration during our forecast period.


Western Europe — the second largest region of global smartphone users with 196.6 million this year, eMarketer estimates — saw three Scandinavian countries reach 50% penetration last year, and this year the Netherlands and the UK will join them. In 2015, a raft of other countries, including the rest of the EU-5, will make the majority-smartphone jump.


Like the UK, the US will also reach majority smartphone penetration among its population this year, a major milestone for two of the most advanced internet markets in the world. Canada will be soon to follow, with smartphone users surpassing 50% of its population in 2015. The US remains the second-largest smartphone market in the world, behind China, totaling 163.9 million users in 2014, according to eMarketer's forecast. The US will retain that status until 2016, when India will take over the second spot.



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