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Mobile Phone, Smartphone Usage Varies Globally

Mobile phones have become one of the primary ways in which people around the globe communicate with each other

November 23, 2016 | Mobile

While the shift from feature phones to smartphones is occurring in most markets worldwide, the rate at which it is happening differs from region to region. Overall, eMarketer estimates that roughly half (49.7%) of mobile phone users across the globe will use a smartphone at least once a month this year, as explored in a new eMarketer report, “Global Mobile Landscape 2016: A Country-by-Country Look at Mobile Phone and Smartphone Usage” (eMarketer PRO customers only).

Mobile Phone Users and Penetration Worldwide, 2015-2020 (billions, % of population and % change)

eMarketer also estimates that that there will be 4.30 billion mobile phone users worldwide in 2016, representing 58.7% of the global population. Though user growth is slowing, the number of mobile phone users will climb to 4.78 billion in 2020.

North America will be the worldwide leader by that metric, with 78.7% of mobile phone users toting smartphones in 2016. Western Europe will not be too far behind at 71.7%. By 2020, the share of smartphone users will reach 87.1% and 82.7% of mobile phone users in those regions, respectively.

Smartphone user growth will be much stronger in the other regions measured by eMarketer, as uptake expands in those areas from significantly lower user bases. In Latin America, for example, the number of smartphone users will climb by 17.1% this year to 49.8% of mobile phone users. Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa and Asia-Pacific will also boast growth rates in the low to mid-teens in 2016.

The demand for smartphones in Asia-Pacific is highest in China and emerging markets in Southeast Asia. According to an August 2016 forecast from GfK, smartphone unit sales in China will rise by 14% this year, due primarily to operator subsidies fueling device adoption in rural areas of the country.

On a global level, Samsung dominates the smartphone market, consistently controlling the largest share of device sales. Gartner reported in August 2016 that 22.3% of smartphones sold during Q2 2016 were made by Samsung, compared with 12.9% for the second most popular brand, Apple. Three Chinese manufacturers, Huawei, Oppo and Xiaomi, rounded out the top five, though each accounted for fewer than one in 10 units sold that quarter.

4G Mobile Connections and Penetration Worldwide, by Region, 2015 & 2020

It’s little surprise that Google’s Android is the leading mobile operating system, given that most smartphone manufacturers run that OS on their devices. The same Gartner report showed that 86.2% of smartphones sold worldwide during Q2 2016 were powered by Android, compared with 12.9% running Apple’s iOS.

Apple’s footprint tends to be greater in wealthier, technologically advanced countries where consumers are drawn toward and can afford higher-end smartphones. In the US, for instance, eMarketer estimates that 43.5% of smartphone users will use an iPhone this year, compared with 52.0% using Android-powered smartphones. The September 2016 launch of the iPhone 7 may further boost Apple’s user base in the country.

More-developed markets are also ahead of the game when it comes to 4G LTE usage. According to a February 2016 report from Cisco Systems, 4G accounted for 47.0% of all mobile connections in North America last year—the highest share among regions measured. Western Europe took second place, with a 4G penetration rate of 23%, followed by Asia-Pacific (15.0%).

Get more on this topic with the full eMarketer report, “Global Mobile Landscape 2016: A Country-by-Country Look at Mobile Phone and Smartphone Usage.”

eMarketer releases over 200 analyst reports per year, which are only available to eMarketer PRO customers.

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