Think for a second about the smartphone you either have with you right now or are reading this article on. What can it do? How much did it cost you, and how much money are you spending on it every month? How many people have one just like yourself, and how many people do you think could go without one for any length of time? Where do you think this massive industry is headed?
There are so many questions that relate to these small computers (as they now are) that it can be easy to get lost in them. Yet learning more about them as consumers is key to learning more about both the modern world and how we can make the most of smartphone technology.
Here are the main facts and statistics you need to know about smartphones in 2020:
To understand the influence of smartphones in the modern world, you need to understand just how much money moves from smartphones, and due to smartphones. Mobile app stores bring in billions each year (more information to follow), and investments don’t stop for new potential innovations in both the hardware and software spaces, if only in the hope of being in on the ground floor of the next new Tinder or Pokémon Go. Much like computers and the internet in general caused a boom a few decades ago, smartphones are the place for many to invest.
Here are the main statistics you should know about the smartphone industry in general:
- Across the world, about 3.5 billion people have a smartphone today, based on information provided by Statista. Below you can find some numbers on growth in recent years.
- Comparatively, 4.78 billion people (or a little more than 61 percent of the world’s population) have a mobile phone of some sort. Exactly how quickly they’ll shift to a smartphone remains to be seen, but it will likely be as soon as they can afford it and have access to the technology.
- Based on predictions by GSMA, by 2025 we will have 5.8 billion mobile users across the world. As a reminder, such a level of connectivity is unprecedented.
- Eventually, we can expect the trend to stop based on the fact that there will be no one left to sell a smartphone to for the first time, but if you go under the assumption that 300 million people first got smartphones in 2019, that’s more than 800,000 people getting a smartphone for the first time each day.
- What does that say about production rates and the supply chains necessary to satisfy that demand, not even counting people who need or want to replace their smartphones (as happens every few years)?
- Learning which phones are popular and which brands are strongest is key to understanding the current situation if only to know just how many players there are in the market.
- While in some cases market share may shift based on new releases and older brands that failed to adapt may fizzle out (Blackberry, for example), ultimately we can expect these top brands to be the ones to watch, if only because they have the money to spend on research and development to keep up with the competition.
- Depending on where you live, you may have only heard of a few of these companies. What remains to be seen in the coming decade is whether we expect companies mostly working in Eastern markets to try and expand further, or whether Western tech giants will more aggressively pursue the reverse.
- Yet how many phones do the companies above ship? Naturally, some phones are more expensive than others, and others might have a longer shelf life. We recommend you don’t use this statistic to determine entirely who is “winning” so to speak, but to get a better impression as to how many devices are out in the world.
If you’re just a smartphone consumer or user, we recommend that you don’t focus too much on the who is leading and instead focus on which phone can provide you with the best experience. Yet which phones are popular can tell you what features people want, or at least what marketing tactics are working. This in itself can be incredibly useful information.
Who Is Using Them? And How Much?
The most interesting thing about smartphones (and to a degree the cell phones before them) over the last decade is the fact that they’ve become a near-necessity to live in the modern world, often to the point where many people say it’s an addiction. People feel uncomfortable without them and being constantly connected almost feels natural.
Conversely, the number of landline numbers (non-business) has decreased drastically over the last few years, mostly as a direct result of increased cell phone and smartphone usage. While there will likely always be some in use for security and reliability reasons (although smartphones are still getting increasingly reliable), we’ll soon see landlines be almost archaic in modern culture.
Here are the numbers to paint a more complete picture:
Based on data collected by the Pew Research Center, we can break down the following groups by smartphone and cellphone ownership and make a few conclusions from it:
- Among American adults, smartphone ownership is near-ubiquitous among younger adults and decreases somewhat as we move to older age groups. While you might be surprised by the relative lack of smartphone ownership in the United States, it is strictly the older generations that are not using a smartphone.
- Based on the breakdown by income level, anyone who can afford a smartphone at the very least has a cell phone, no matter how little they use it based on other statistics. It’s something important to have, and that’s enough for many people.
- Ethnic background or race doesn’t seem to have much on an effect on smartphone ownership, at least in terms of having one at all.
- The average person will spend an average of 2 hours and 51 minutes each day on their smartphone. That number increases if you include tablet devices, and as a reminder does not include screen time on computers and other devices.
- According to information compiled by Bankmycell, people will check their smartphone an average of 63 times per day. This is an increase from previous years. How many of those are from notifications and how many of those are from simply seeking something to do in quiet moments is yet to be seen.
- It does mean that assuming seven hours of sleep each night (if people aren’t checking it in their sleep), people will check their phone an average of nine times an hour.
- From the same source, 86 percent of people using smartphones will even check their devices regularly while talking with friends and family.
- Not only this, but smartphones effectively go to bed with us. Out of all smartphone users, 87 percent of them check their phone within one hour of going to sleep, and 69 percent check it within five minutes of waking up. Most would agree this is not good for proper sleep hygiene, but the pull is too strong for most people.
- Furthermore, 79 percent of smartphone users have their phones with them for 22 hours a day, which likely far more than perhaps any other possessions outside of items such as wedding rings.
The market in the United States and most of Europe is entirely saturated, which means that growth won’t be so easy for smartphone producers. China and a few other Asian countries are likely next to follow (more on that in a moment), which means that smartphone producers and app developers and marketers by extension will need to consider new markets and methods to reach those new markets. Will they try to make more affordable options, or will other methods be used?
Here are a few statistics to give greater context to these questions and considerations:
- According to the Pew Research Center, everyone in South Korea owns a mobile phone and is connected. While we can only be sure that there are outliers, 94 percent of adults own a smartphone and 6 percent own a mobile phone (non-smart).
- By comparison, at the same time this information was collected, the UK had 72 percent smartphone ownership and 93 percent mobile ownership.
- The United States had 77 percent smartphone ownership and 94 percent mobile ownership.
- What will be interesting to see in other counties partially from this example is whether people will first adopt mobile phones at some rate before moving onward to smartphones, or whether people will jump immediately to smartphones once the technology is there.
- As of December of 2017, 97.5 percent of Chinese internet users were accessing the internet through their smartphone. While the concept of accessing the internet via smartphone isn’t at all foreign to people, many of us still consider our desktop or laptop our primary point of access or the device we use when we wish to do more in-depth, serious work.
- While we can’t perfectly predict which countries and consumer bases will adopt smartphones in the coming years, GSMA has noted that there will be some new countries with huge numbers that smartphone companies and app developers will need to cater to and other companies will want to reach via mobile marketing (and build an operations base there, depending on their industry).
- Pakistan, Nigeria, and Bangladesh are the countries to watch here, but effectively any countries with a huge population are susceptible to an explosion in adoption, given the right conditions.
Ever-Changing Hardware and Software
Quick obsolescence is just a fact of the smartphone market these days, both in terms of hardware and in terms of apps. Developers of major apps constantly need to refine and reinvent themselves to keep up with innovators, and in a matter of months one of those competitive innovators could take off.
Yet while this is true, it is also true that some companies hold on strong and some platforms are ruling the industry.
Here are a few statistics on smartphone hardware, changing platforms, and the constant stream of new ideas:
While models will come and go, we should at least comment on an ever-increasing product lineup in the smartphone world, despite the relative lack of statistics in this space.
- A quick search will find that there are dozens of Android-using smartphone models each year, produced by the major companies listed previously. There is always a selection, always a choice for every budget (although many smartphones are trending towards the more expensive), and constant incremental innovations such as slightly better cameras, improved touchscreens, hardier materials used in construction, and others.
- New iPhones are a rarer occurrence, but one which people will flock to. And there’s at least a yearly trend of either a new or updated model, ensuring brand loyalty or at least awareness when it comes time to replace a broken or outdated phone. And as evidenced by the infamous lack of a headphone jack in some models, Apple isn’t afraid to guide the market (or at least try to) forward to its plans.
Android vs. iOS
While there were originally a few other mobile operating systems in play (like the poorly supported Windows Phone 8), Android and iOS have been effectively dominant over the industry, and as such over many people’s lives.
- The main thing you will want to know, of course, is what the numbers are between iOS and Android, and what differences can be expected in the future (and whether there will be any newcomers to challenge the status quo).
- Android is clearly the leader, but it’s important to note that Apple is the only effective alternative. This is an interesting competition to consider, as effectively all apps, technology, and websites (or more specifically web browsers) must use one or the other to be successful. Two companies dictate the rules, and it will be vital to watch whether this will cause pressure or not.
- Can we expect any newcomers to the market with a competing mobile OS? It’s extremely unlikely, if impossible. The money and development time required to create a worthy competitor are notable limits, and not many companies would be willing to experiment in that space. It’s safe to say that 2020 will still only have two main competitors.
Despite the hardware we hold in our hands, apps, and the relative ease by which they are acquired, are what truly give smartphones their versatility and their ability to be relevant to every part of our modern life. Without them, we would be calling people and not much else (even preloaded apps on smartphones are still apps). Mastering their creation, implementation, and adjustment is key for businesses to succeed in the coming decade.
To go into everything about the app market would be an endless exercise if an interesting one and the minute data changes so often it wouldn’t be of much use. Instead, here are a few key things you should know about apps and their place in the world in 2020
- Smartphone apps took in $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019.
- About 72 percent of that spending was on games, given that they are the apps that are the most monetized and most other options have a very small cost or relatively small subscription fee of some kind.
- In 2019, people downloaded 204 billion apps to their devices. Based on the number of smartphone users today, that is roughly 58.2 app downloads per smartphone user per year.
- Partially the cause of this, and something that clarifies the number, is the fact that 79 percent of users will stop using an app after the first day.
- Even though there are more apps than we can count, that doesn’t mean a few apps don’t stand out among all the rest. In fact, you probably have most of these installed now. Here are the apps people can’t go without:
- These were all among the top three apps people said they couldn’t go without, yet it remains true that nearly all of the above apps are used by many people, on top of apps people might not deem essential but instead convenient. Every major service has an associated app.
While you’re almost certainly familiar with 4G connection technology on your smartphone and might have been for some years, progress marches on, and 2020 will likely be the first year many people are exposed to “5G” technology on a consumer level. Here are a few things to note down:
- Have you noticed a “5G” icon on your phone in certain areas? That’s because 5G has launched in the United States and a few other countries. While we haven’t discovered any new use cases for the technology beyond simply improving what we already have, the improvements make the market more open to innovation.
- While we might not see the same degree of improvement from 3G to 4G and previous transitions, we must also remember that while North America and other modernized countries adopt 5G technology, other countries will be adopting 4G connections at a faster rate, meaning that those users will be far more likely to utilize them for information or media which requires a better connection.
- 4G only took the lead as of 2017, while 3G use is in slow decline and 2G use is effectively nose-diving and expected to fall below 10 percent usage by around 2023.
The Internet Of Things
While the Internet of Things could be the subject of its own long article (and much more) and we do not want to divert too much to focus on it, to divorce it entirely from the discussion of smartphones and smartphone-related technology would be foolish. Smartphones are increasingly becoming connected to other aspects and gadgets of our everyday life, and here are some statistics and trends to prove that point:
- Every second (including the ones you’re using to read this), 127 new IoT devices connect to the internet, and that number is only expected to rise. These devices can be anything from Smartphones to smart toasters
- It should be noted that this was a slower adoption rate than expected and that this number or trend might change if there is suddenly a device (much like smartphones) which everyone must have.
- One of the reasons you might not have heard of the IoT too much so far is the fact that much of the adoption and investment in it has been on the industrial side. Over 50 percent of IoT spending in 2020 will be business investment.
We bring up all these points with the note that many, if not most of these devices, at least on the consumer side, require the use of a smartphone or another connected device. What will happen when modern convenience beyond communication absolutely requires a smartphone? Can this market sustain itself from a resource perspective, especially should something happen to sensitive supply chains? And will there be backlash over potential vulnerabilities in these networks? These are the questions that need to be asked and at least partially answered.
More than any other type of consumer product, nothing has captured the public like the smartphone over the last 10 years. Being not only a product but a platform opens it up to a nearly endless host of innovations, advancements, and more. There is so much more to be studied and learned about them, and we hope that these statistics show you just how vital smartphones are to the future and also start to get you thinking about their current and future place in your life