Smartphone sales are booming — more than 1.4 billion units were sold in 2015 and the figure is expected to be higher this year. The number of smartphone users is forecast to grow from 1.5 billion in 2014 to 2.08 billion by end of 2016 and to touch 2.5 billion by 2019. A little over 36 percent of the world’s population is projected to use a smartphone by 2018, up from about 10 percent in 2011, shows the latest study by Pew Research Center.
China, the most populous country in the world, leads the smartphone industry. The number of smartphone users in China is forecast to grow from 480 million in 2013 to around 690 million in 2019. With around half of the Chinese population projected to use a smartphone by 2018, this means that in two years a quarter of all smartphone users in the world will be located in China. The United States is also an important market for the smartphone industry, with the number of users of smartphones set to increase from around 170 million in 2014 to 236 million by 2019.
However a sharp smartphone digital divide is clearly evident; even though the global median for smartphone penetration stands at 43 percent, in Africa less than one in five people use a smartphone. Similarly, there is a difference of 84 percentage points between the country with the most smartphone owners – South Korea, and the country with the least – Ethiopia at 4 percent. Despite the significant gap between developed and developing countries, the gap is closing rapidly. In emerging and developing countries, the average figure for smartphone ownership figure has risen from 21 to 37 percent in just two years.
At the continental level, Africa was last relative to ownership of smartphones, with 19 percent of adults reportedly owning smartphones. The United States (classified as a continent for the research), Europe and the Middle East led the continental smartphone ownership table with 72 percent, 60 percent and 57 percent respectively. Latin America and the Asia Pacific regions followed with 43 percent and 37 percent penetration respectively.
South Korea, which recorded 88 percent of adults owning phones, was on top of the chart. Australia, Israel, the United States and Spain finished the first five category, while UK, Canada, Chile, Malaysia and Germany completed the top 10 smartphone countries.
Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS are the two most popular smartphone operating systems in the industry. In the first three quarters of 2015 alone, nearly a billion smartphones with either Android or iOS operating systems were sold to end users worldwide. Android, with 80 percent of all smartphones sales, leads the market. In contrast, only about 15 percent of all smartphones sold to end customers have iOS as their operating system.
The leading smartphone vendors are Samsung and Apple, with about 25 percent and 15 percent of the share respectively, followed by Huawei, Lenovo and Xiaomi.