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Number of Smartphone and Mobile Phone Users Worldwide in 2022/2023: Demographics, Statistics, Predictions

How many smartphone users are there in the world?
There are over 5.22 billion smartphone users in the world, representing 66% of the global population. The population of users grew by 93 million in 2020 with an annual growth rate of  1.8%. As for mobile subscriptions, the number has exceeded six billion while the number of new smartphones used daily is more than one million.

Source: DataReportal 2021

What is the number of smartphone users worldwide?

The number of smartphone users reached 5.22 billion by the end of 2020, which represents 66% of the world’s population (DataReportal, 2021). 2020 brought in an additional 93 million users, a 1.8% increase from 2019’s year-end total.

Market growth in 2021 will be led by the Asia Pacific region—India and China in particular—making up 2.1 billion or 56% of the global market share. The six-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for Asia Pacific alone is +10.6%.

Average yearly 3% increases in worldwide smartphone penetration rates will boost smartphone penetration from the current rate of 41.49% to a projected 56.28% by the year 2024. In a time when smartphones are a must-have, it is interesting to note the 50% penetration threshold is yet to be reached.

It’s important to note the distinction between smartphones and other mobile devices. Mobile devices can include tablets, Internet of Things devices, and cellular phones that are not internet-capable (typically further subdivided into “dumb” or “feature” phones). As of 2019, unique mobile devices number 5.11 billion, 60% of which represent smartphones.

This article explores smartphone users’ preference in terms of the following main categories:

Smartphone Ownership and Penetration Rates

2020 was the peak year for smartphone ownership. Global numbers reached 5 billion users in that period (DataReportal, 2021). 2018, on the other hand, was the year that saw a decline in smartphone sales with 2019 figures reflecting negative growth but it did pick up in the succeeding year.

Source: Statista 2020

Though there is upward growth in smartphone ownership and penetration rates in developed countries, the same can not be said for low- to medium-income ones. There is still a lot to be done to make the world equally connected. Mobile phones go beyond social media use and serve as a portal to other services that enrich the lives of people.

Smartphone Penetration Rates 2021

Year

World Population Smartphones Users (in billions) Penetration Rate
2016

7.464

4.70

62.97%

2017

7.548

4.86

64.39%

2018

7.631

5

65.52%

2019

7.713

5.13

66.51%

2020

7.795

5.22

66.97%

Many would guess the country with the highest phone ownership rates to be the United States, as it is the home of the iPhone, arguably the most recognizable phone brand in the world, as well as other disruptive phone technologies. The smartphone ownership rate in the US in 2018 stand at 77% while the smartphone penetration rate is 69.60%.

The difference in figures is based on the metric that is measured; ownership rate refers to the number of mobile devices owned while mobile penetration rate is the number of active SIM cards in a country. Penetration rates are presented in percentages; individuals can have more than one active SIM card so total numbers can exceed 100%.

What percentage of the population has a smartphone?

Smartphone penetration rates vary per region and research sample. India has 27.70% despite a booming population that nearly rivals China. The highest is a toss between the UK with a 82.20% smartphone penetration rate (Newzoo) and South Korea with 95% (Pew Research). The global average is at 39% for 2018 but is projected to reach 41.5% by the end of 2019.

Which country has the most smartphone users?

Smartphone ownership continues to grow rapidly but the growth rate is not equal.

China and India are constantly mentioned across market reports as critical drivers of smartphone ownership growth in the world and the APAC region. China has a 55.30% penetration rate while India is at 27.70%. Penetration rates lower than 60% leave a lot of room to grow and demand to fill. Sources point to China and India as likely leaders of the smartphone ownership market in the world with an estimated combined number of 1.406 billion—18.50% of the projected world population numbers by 2020.

A Bloomberg report from August 2019 showed North Korea as the country with the lowest number of smartphone ownership per user in the world—0.15 phones per person (Bloomberg, 2019). In contrast, the country with the highest number of smartphone devices per individual is Macao, registering 3.29 smartphones per person. The extremes highlight the huge disparity in economic wealth—a leading barrier to mobile phone ownership—even between countries within the APAC region.

Number of smartphone users by country

As far as country stats go, China has the highest number of smartphone users in the world. in 2020, it had over 911 million smartphone users (Newzoo, 2020). The numbers are staggering as it is only 63.4% of the country’s total population but is forecast to grow more. India follows with a more modest 439 million, with the US in third place with 270 million smartphone users.

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Number of Smartphone Users by Country in 2020

(in millions)

Number of Smartphone Users by Country in 2020
China: 911.92

China

Number of Smartphone Users by Country in 2020
India: 439.42

India

Number of Smartphone Users by Country in 2020
United States: 270.00

United States

Number of Smartphone Users by Country in 2020
Indonesia: 160.23

Indonesia

Number of Smartphone Users by Country in 2020
Brazil: 109.34

Brazil

Number of Smartphone Users by Country in 2020
Russia: 99.93

Russia

Number of Smartphone Users by Country in 2020
Japan: 75.77

Japan

Number of Smartphone Users by Country in 2020
Mexico: 70.14

Mexico

Number of Smartphone Users by Country in 2020
Germany: 65.24

Germany

Number of Smartphone Users by Country in 2020
Vietnam: 61.37

Vietnam

Source: Newzoo 2020

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How many smartphone users are there in China?

China has the highest number of smartphone users at over 911 million compared to the US’s 270 million (Newzoo, 2020). Smartphone penetration rates in 2020 for these two countries are 63.4% and 81.6%, respectively. Overall, the US has the highest penetration rate, followed by the United Kingdom at 78.99%, Germany at 77.9%, France at 77.6%, and South Korea at 76.5%. The global penetration rate is 66% (DataReportal, 2021).

What percentage of the UK owns a smartphone?

78.9% of UK users own a smartphone (Newzoo, 2020). Broken down into age groups, 16-24 and 25-34 year-olds have the same stats—95%—for smartphone ownership. The 35-54 age group is not far behind with 91% and 55-64 year-olds at 51%.

Age and Gender Distribution of Smartphone Ownership

The demographics of age and gender are also indicators of phone ownership inequality.

The gender gap in smartphone ownership reflects the disparities in social, political, and educational attitudes, as well as economic opportunities between men and women. The worldwide gender gap average in mobile phone (figure includes smartphones and feature phones) ownership is at 10%. The rate has been holding steady from 2017 to 2018 based on the latest Mobile Gender Gap Report from GSMA Intelligence (Newzoo, 2020). Overall, women from low- to medium-income countries are 10% less likely than men to own a mobile phone. South Asia has the highest phone ownership gap at 28% despite the current trend of lower prices for entry-level phones and the upward growth of smartphone penetration.

Of the continents included in the survey, South Asia has the lowest phone ownership for women—62% leaving 219 million women unconnected. Sub-Saharan Africa follows with a 69% mobile ownership rate and 81 million women unconnected.

Smaller gender gaps in phone ownership can be found in East Asia and the Pacific region, which has a 93% mobile phone ownership rate and a 1% mobile ownership gender gap. Europe and Central Asia follow next, boasting of a 90% mobile phone ownership rate which translates to a -2% gender gap.

The gap shrank in the same period by 50% for the following continents: Europe, Central Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Increases were seen in the Middle East and North Africa with 12.5% and South Asia registering a 3.7% growth.

What age group uses smartphones the most?

Age is also a determinant of phone ownership. In the US, the 18-29 age group has a 96% smartphone ownership rate (Pew Research, 2020), followed by 30-49 year-olds with 92%. The 50-64 set is at 79% while the 65 and up are at 53%.

The younger generations—Generation Z and Millenials—are the most connected age group with Gen-Xers and Boomers not far behind in adoption rates. Adults aged 18-34 have high smartphone ownership rates. This statistic is true whether the country is classified as an advanced economy like South Korea, Australia, or the US, or an emerging one like Brazil, South Africa, or India.

Other demographics impacting mobile phone ownership

The gender gap in mobile phone ownership is linked to the following demographics:

  1. Living in rural areas with limited mobile infrastructure
  2. Being unemployed
  3. Being illiterate or semi-literate
  4. Being over the age of 45

For women living in low- and medium-income countries, the following reasons compound the gender gap in phone ownership:

  1. Affordability. Smartphone prices have gone down considerably but are still out of reach, For women who are unemployed or are the sole breadwinner for the family, even the low-tier models are not affordable.
  2. Literacy and skills. Handset usability and accessibility are affected when the user does not have the reading skills or the digital skills to operate the device. This barrier affects Asia the most and women in particular.
  3. Safety and security. Safety and security concerns are top barriers for women from Latin America where it was ranked second most important after affordability. These safety concerns are distilled into two: the possibility of device theft and threats from calls, SMS, and online interactions.
  4. Relevance. This is the perception of how owning a mobile phone gives value or is helpful to one’s life.

Reasons for the Gender Gap in Phone Ownership in Low-Income Regions 2019

Rank

All Countries

Africa

Asia

Latin America

Women

Men Women Men Women Men Women

Men

1

affordability

affordability affordability affordability literacy & skills literacy & skills affordability

affordability

2

literacy & skills

literacy & skills literacy & skills literacy & skills affordability affordability safety & security

safety & security

3

safety & security

safety & security safety & security safety & security relevance relevance literacy & skills

literacy & skills

4

relevance

relevance network coverage relevance family does not approve safety & security relevance

relevance

These demographic barriers aren’t limited to low- to medium-income countries only. Pew Research shows three demographic determinants that affect phone ownership even in countries with advanced economies — location, education, and annual income.

These determinants hold true in the US, the UK, and the rest of the world. For those in the US, living in urban and suburban areas have the highest rates of smartphone ownership. Smartphones are ubiquitous and can even be bought from convenience stores. The infrastructure and technology to use the latest devices are also readily available.

Education and annual income show a skew towards college graduates: 91% smartphone ownership rate compared to 72% for high school graduates. Those with an annual income of $75,000 have a 95% ownership rate vs 71% for those earning less than $30,000 a year.

Mobile phones are viewed as a necessity, rooted in the need for communication and staying connected. But for those making $30,000 or less a year, it is an additional expense that some will have to choose over other essentials such as food, rent, or healthcare. Thirty thousand a year comes up to bi-weekly take-home pay of $1,154. A phone budget of $15-$40 a month will easily eat into that.

Smartphone Operating System Preference: Android vs iOS

Android democratized smartphone ownership. Google distributed the operating system and some services for free with the aim of matching the iPhone and getting a slice of the smartphone market. The gamble paid off with 8 out of 10 smartphones on the market today powered by an Android OS.

Various sources put the total number of Android smartphones at 3 billion worldwide against 900 million active iPhones. According to StatCounter, Android has a market share of 71.93% as of January 2021 (StatCounter, 2021). iOS takes 27.47% of the market pie. The remaining segments cover Windows and other small players in the smartphone race.

Source: StatCounter 2021

Country with the highest percentage of Android users

Why is Android the preferred smartphone operating system? With close to 80% in market share, Android has taken over the worldwide smartphone market. Bloomberg data points to Bangladesh as the country with the highest number of Android users at 98%. The worldwide median average is 83% and continues to grow.

Below are the countries with the highest and lowest number of Android-based smartphone users per region.

Countries with most and least Android Users 2019

Region

Most

Least

The Americas Bolivia

95%

Canada

46%

Asia and Oceania Bangladesh

98%

Japan

30%

Europe Poland

96%

Sweden

46%

Middle East Syria

97%

Kuwait

69%

Africa Algeria

96%

Madagascar

49%

  • The Americas includes North, Latin, Central, and the Caribbean islands.
  • Asia and Oceania include Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific islands.

Android is King in countries with low smartphone penetration rates as the technology is cheap and readily available. Still, low ownership and penetration rates persist, even for Android, due to a practical consideration: the price tag. The monthly minimum wage in Bangladesh is 8,000 Tk or roughly $95. In contrast, average prices for low-tier smartphone models in Bangladesh run between 7,500 Tk – 8,500 Tk. There is no room for seemingly frivolous purchases on such a tight budget.

Country with the highest percentage of iPhone users

Japan ranks as the country with the most number of iPhone users worldwide, earning 70% of the total market share. Worldwide median average iPhone ownership stands at 14%. iPhone users have a cult-like devotion to the device and continue to favor it despite the prohibitive cost. iPhone prices have bucked the trend of falling smartphone prices, with the iPhone retailing at an average selling price of $750-$800.

Price is not an issue for iPhone die-hards though. The list below shows countries with the highest iPhone ownership. The US is the biggest regional market for the Cupertino, California-based company. The rest can be categorized as countries with advanced economies in their respective regions enjoying higher living and wage standards when compared to their low iPhone user counterparts.

Countries with highest and lowest number of iPhone users per region

Region

Highest

Lowest

The Americas Canada and the US

56%

Bolivia

4%

Asia and Oceania Japan

70%

Bangladesh

1%

Europe Sweden

54%

Poland

2%

Middle East Kuwait

31%

Syria

2%

Africa Morocco 28% Madagascar

1%

The high and low values are basically exchanged between the two countries in the high and low end of the ownership scales with the exception of Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest penetration rates out of all the continents but is also one of the fastest-growing smartphone markets in the world. CAGR growth projections for unique mobile subscribers are at 4.6% for the period of 2018-2025. More smartphones are coming to Africa, just not iPhones.

Smartphone units sold per mobile vendor

Statista estimates 1.589 billion smartphones sold by the end of 2021 (Statista, 2020). Broken down into vendor sales, the top smartphone vendors as of December 2021 are Samsung, Huawei, Apple, Xiaomi, and Oppo (Statista, 2021). In a surprising turn of events in the last quarter of 2020, Apple managed to relinquish the top spot from Samsung, a feat it has not done since 2017, as it held a 23.4% of the market. Samsung, however, remained consistent at 19.1% since the fluctuations of its share have been modest since the second quarter of 2019.

Source: IDC 2021

Xiaomi, OPPO, and Huawei continue to defy expectations with consistent growth despite the US trade ban and the suspension of its Google Android license. As of the fourth quarter of 2020, the three are battling it out for the third to fifth spots, respectively, with Xiaomi’s 11.2%, OPPO’s 8.8%, and Huawei’s 8.4% (Statista, 2021).

Source: StatCounter 2021

How many Samsung users are there in the world?

As far as market share goes, Samsung is undoubtedly at the forefront with a 31.33% worldwide slice of the pie. The number of Samsung smartphones in the market comes up to 1.033 billion. With these numbers, where do we factor in the iPhone’s cult-status symbol?

How many iPhone users are there in the world?

Filtered through a worldwide lens, Apple has sold 44.8 million units compared to Samsung’s 79.2 million units sold as of the third quarter of 2019. Specific markets like the US, Canada, and Japan show a preference for the iPhone. Apple fans also buy accessories, apps, and Apple-specific services that are valued in the billions. Aside from individual end-users, Apple devices are also the preferred business phone for work-related use of its business integrations and services.

Bottom line: is Android or iPhone more popular? Androids outnumber iPhones 3 to 1 in the worldwide market. US numbers differ with the iPhone leading with a 55% market share compared to Android’s 44%. The minute difference is shared among small players like Windows, KaiOS, and Samsung. Based on the figures, Android is more popular among smartphone users.

How Much Time Do We Spend on Our Phones in 2020?

Time spent on a smartphone continues to increase with US adults spending more time on their mobile devices than watching TV. As of the last quarter of 2020, the global average is 4 hours and 10 minutes, which is an increase of 20% from 2019 due to COVID-19 (DataReportal, 2021). People have been tinkering with apps 92% of the time while the remaining 8% use browsers.

Prior to COVID-19, the US averaged 3 hours and 40 minutes. The figure is not much different in other parts of the world: China averages 3 hours 54 minutes, South Korea clocks in at 3 hours 51 minutes, and the UK is at 3 hours 37 minutes. During the pandemic, however, Russia exhibited the largest increase in time spent on mobile devices at 40%, followed by Canada (39%), India (37%), and Brazil (28%) (Statista, 2020).

Source: Forbes 2020

Most popular uses of smartphones

The time spent on smartphones and mobile devices is a lot, but what do people do on their smartphones?

It starts just after you wake up: you pick up your phone to turn off the alarm or check the time. You take a few minutes scrolling through social media and quickly browse through the news. You check on work email, send texts, make calls, and this pattern continues throughout the day. These small pockets of time throughout the day are what marketers call micro-moments. Usually lasting 8-10 minutes, micro-moments make us check our phones for the news, for deals, for information, and recommendations—where to eat, where to go, what to do, basically everything.

These moments add up to about 52 times a day. Smartphones are the preferred device for reading news, taking photos, social networking, watching short videos, making video calls, doing online banking, and using mobile payments. Smartphones also become the hub used to control other devices and keep track of calorie intake or health stats.

Phones are primarily used for communication—personal and for work—with text messaging topping the list at 93%, followed by phone calls at 87%, and email at 82%. The values differ slightly when used for work.

 

References:

  1. Average increase in daily hours spent per device on mobile during COVID-19 as of 2nd quarter 2020, by country. (2020, August 17). Statista.
  2. Digital 2021: Global overview report. (2021, February 4). DataReportal.
  3. Mobile fact sheet. (2020, June 5). Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/fact-sheet/mobile/
  4. Mobile operating system market share worldwide. (2021). StatCounter Global Stats.
  5. O’Dea, S. (2021, February). Number of smartphones sold to end users worldwide from 2007 to 2021. Statista.
  6. O’Dea, S. (2021, January). Global smartphone market share from 4th quarter 2009 to 4th quarter 2020. Statista.
  7. Ovide, S. (2019, August 6). The smartphone revolution was the Android revolution. Bloomberg.
  8. Top countries/Markets by smartphone penetration & users. (2020, October 19). Newzoo.
Allan Jay

By Allan Jay

Allan Jay is FinancesOnline’s resident B2B expert with over a decade of experience in the SaaS space. He has worked with vendors primarily as a consultant in the UX analysis and design stages, lending to his reviews a strong user-centric angle. A management professional by training, he adds the business perspective to software development. He likes validating a product against workflows and business goals, two metrics, he believes, by which software is ultimately measured.

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