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Asia-Pacific Near Top for Internet Users Going Online via Smartphone

But the region trails markedly for internet use by the overall population

January 3, 2017 | Mobile

Internet users in Asia-Pacific own smartphones at higher rates than their peers in Europe or North America. In fact, they surpass every region except the Middle East and Africa by that measure. However, other metrics show the region isn't as digitally advanced as that figure would suggest.

Internet Users Worldwide Who Own a Smartphone, by Region and Demographic, Q3 2016 (% of respondents)

According to data from GlobalWebIndex, 93% of internet users in Asia-Pacific owned smartphones in Q3 2016, a figure matched by internet users in Latin America and bested only by the Middle East and Africa, where 95% of internet users had advanced mobile handsets. In Western Europe and North America the average was 85%.

But high rates of smartphone penetration don't necessarily mean internet users in the leading regions are more technologically advanced than in Europe or North America. Rather, it reflects the fact that internet users in those areas access the internet primarily, or often solely, by smartphone, compared to regions where legacy desktop/laptop internet use is still high.

eMarketer forecasts that only 43.5% of the population in Asia-Pacific will be regular internet users in 2016. In Latin America and the Middle East, those figures will be 56% and 30%, respectively. By comparison, 82.4% of North America's population will be regular internet users in 2016, as will 75.1% of the population of Western Europe.

It's certainly tempting to see high smartphone penetration among internet users in Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East and Africa as a sign of greater technological engagement—on an individual user basis that may be the case. But the larger point is that in those regions, the population is much less likely to use the internet, but more likely, if they do, to access it via smartphone.

—Ben Clague

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