Demographics Of Worldwide Mobile Phone Use

Just how enthralled is the world with mobile phones? One of the most rapidly changing and disruptive technologies of the past decade, mobile phone use has exploded on a global scale. In order to figure out where we’re headed, we must first know where we are: we’ll take a look below at the demographics of worldwide mobile phone use.


Throughout the world, just how many mobile phones are in use, and who possesses them?

Twenty five years ago, there were roughly 10,000,000 mobile phones in use worldwide. Since then, that figure has exploded by 400 fold; today, there are more than 4.6 billion mobile phones in use worldwide. That’s equivalent to two-thirds of a mobile phone for each person – man, woman and child – alive today, and roughly equivalent to one phone per adult on the planet.


Throughout the world, the rate of mobile phone ownership varies wildly.

By far, Europe and Russia have the highest overall rates of phone ownership. Virtually every European nation has more phones in use than people; the United Kingdom has 1.2 phones per person, while Russia has 1.3 phones per person in operation.

Throughout Asia, the figures vary depending upon the region. In Western Asia and Japan, rates of mobile phone ownership are the highest (ranging from 0.6 to 0.9 phones per person). Throughout the vast interior of the continent and in larger nations such as India and China, mobile phone ownership still remains relatively low due to poverty. China has 0.47 mobile phones per person, while India’s rate is comparable.

North America has the second highest rate of mobile phone ownership in the world by region, with the United States being comparable to Japan (0.87 phones per person). Canada and Mexico each are roughly equal, at 0.65 phones per person.

South America comes in a close third, falling behind North America only due to Brazil and Bolivia’s relatively low rates of mobile phone ownership.

Africa, unsurprisingly, comes in last place for mobile phone ownership. Much of Sub-Saharan Africa has fewer than 1 mobile phone per 3 people, while Northern Africa and South Africa both have mobile phone rates of ownership closer to that of South America.

The ten countries with the highest rates of mobile phone ownership are:

  • United Arab Emirates
  • Estonia
  • Hong Kong
  • Italy
  • Bulgaria
  • Lithuania
  • Portugal
  • Singapore
  • Czech Republic
  • Russia


The nature of the mobile phone continues to change how we view the world, how we interact with each other and what we’re willing to do when we’re around other people.

Oddly, more than ten percent of cell phone users have admitted to answering phone calls while having sex. An equivalent number have described using text messaging while engaged in the behaviour as well, which would seem rather distracting for all involved.

Age seems to play a role in which activities people are willing to engage in while using a mobile device. For instance, nearly half of all those surveyed under the age of 25 said it was acceptable to use a mobile phone while eating, while roughly one-quarter said the same among those over the age of 25. The same proportionate discrepancy was observed between those above and below the age of 25 when it came to using the bathroom or having sex.

Mobile phone usage has largely given way to adoption of other technologies provided by it, such as text messaging. Roughly 70 percent of those worldwide phone users have used text messaging in the past year. Compared to just five years ago, there is an additional 1 billion texts sent per day around the planet.

The average cell phone user spends approximately 20 minutes per day making phone calls. Where time is becoming particularly occupied – especially in the developed world – is in the use of text messaging and data usage. More people now use their mobile devices in the developed world to perform basic internet searches than traditional desktop devices, meaning that the nature of mobile phones continues to change.

By far, the most popular mobile platform in the world is Android. Coming in a distant second is iOS, but Android devices remain above and beyond the most popular type of mobile phone platform in the world due to the emerging markets in developing nations. As iOS and other comparable platforms must be licensed and paid for, the inexpensive (free) nature of Android ensures widespread adoption across a plethora of affordable mobile phones.


In just a few short years, it is likely that there will be one mobile phone in operation for every single person on the planet. We expect that the most growth will be seen in Africa and Asia, but even developed nations will continue to see mobile phone growth – to the point that nations such as the United States and Japan have more than one mobile phone per person. This increasing connectivity to the rest of the world will undoubtedly fuel more e-commerce, communication and interaction across national boundaries than anyone could have expected even twenty years ago.

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