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Worldwide Smartphone Usage to Grow 25% in 2014

Nine countries to surpass 50% smartphone penetration this year

Consumers around the world are rushing into the embrace of the smartphone market, according to new figures from eMarketer on mobile usage worldwide. By the end of 2014, we expect 1.76 billion people to own and use smartphones monthly, up more than 25% over 2013.

Just under one-quarter of the world’s total population will use smartphones this year—and by 2017, more than one-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 project that 15 countries worldwide will have seen more than half their populations adopt smartphones,” said Monica Peart, senior forecasting analyst at eMarketer. “The embrace of this technology among the approximately 500 million people in these countries who will be using smart devices by the end of next year will have a significant influence on media usage, ecommerce and marketing.”

Consumers in Asia-Pacific will account for more than half of all smartphone users this year, eMarketer estimates, totaling 951.0 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 the largest in the world by far—totaling 521.7 million this year, eMarketer estimates. Other emerging markets in Asia-Pacific will not reach 50% smartphone penetration during our forecast period.

Western Europe—the region with the second-largest number of smartphone users, with 196.6 million in 2014, eMarketer estimates—saw three Nordic countries reach 50% penetration last year, and this year, the Netherlands and 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. The US remains the second-largest smartphone market worldwide, behind China, totaling 163.9 million users in 2014, eMarketer estimates. The US will retain that status until 2016, when India will take over the second spot. Canada will be soon to follow, with smartphone users surpassing 50% of its population in 2015.

eMarketer bases all of its forecasts on a multipronged approach that focuses on both worldwide and local trends in the economy, technology and population, along with company-, product-, country- and demographic-specific trends, and trends in specific consumer behaviors. We analyze quantitative and qualitative data from a variety of research firms, government agencies, media outlets and company reports, weighting each piece of information based on methodology and soundness.

In addition, every element of each eMarketer forecast fits within the larger matrix of all of its forecasts, with the same assumptions and general framework used to project figures in a wide variety of areas. Regular re-evaluation of each forecast means those assumptions and framework are constantly updated to reflect new market developments and other trends.

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