Majority of China's Mobile Phone Users Will Use Smartphones Next Year - eMarketer

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Majority of China's Mobile Phone Users Will Use Smartphones Next Year

Young adults 18 to 34 are most likely to use smartphones

December 22, 2014

More than half of all mobile phone users in China will own and use a smartphone in 2015, eMarketer estimates. The rise of cheap, domestically produced devices combined with escalating disposable income and faster broadband speeds is fueling China’s rapidly growing smartphone market. There will be about 184 million new smartphone users in China between 2014 and 2018, leading its smartphone user base to jump from 38.3% to 51.1% of the total population.

Smartphone Users in China, 2014-2018 (millions and % of population)

China is a mobile-first country when it comes to digital access. The majority of the country’s internet audience will use a smartphone or advanced feature phone as their primary means of going online.

Young, educated, urban-dwelling adults were early in embracing smartphones. About 77% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 74.6% of 25- to 34-year-olds in the country will use a smartphone regularly this year. These young adults have the highest penetration rates of any age group in China, but there’s still room for significant user gains. eMarketer forecasts that by 2018, 91.0% of 18- to 24-year-olds and about 89% of 25- to 34-year-olds in China will use a smartphone.

Smartphone User Penetration in China, by Age, 2014 & 2018 (% of population in each group)

Smartphone usage is lower among teens and older adults, but these less-penetrated groups will post higher-than-average growth rates for the duration of the forecast period. eMarketer expects about three-quarters of 12- to 17-year-olds and 35- to 44-year-olds to own and use a smartphone by 2018, though smartphone users will still only account for a minority of children and adults 45 and older at this point.

China has a significantly larger male population, which has led men to have a more highly penetrated and substantially larger smartphone audience than women. eMarketer projects that there will be 269.6 million men in China who will use a smartphone regularly in 2014, accounting for 50.5% of male mobile phone users. Comparably, China’s 229.6 million female smartphone users will represent 47.7% of female mobile phone users. There will be an 8-percentage-point share gap between male and female smartphone users this year, which will diminish annually as more women take up smartphones. By 2018, the gender gap currently seen among China’s smartphone users will be nearly nonexistent.

Smartphone User Share in China, by Gender, 2014 & 2018 (% of total)

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 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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