63% Of Us Now Use Mobile Phones

Simon Kemp

Amongst the wealth of insights and information shared during Mobile World Conference in Barcelona this week, one data point really stood out for me.

GSMA Intelligence (GSMAI) – the team that publishes the mobile data we use in our Digital, Social & Mobile reports – updated its figures for the number of unique mobile users around the world, and the change is quite remarkable.

At the time we published our Digital in 2015 report just over 12 months ago, GSMAI reported that there were around 3.65 billion unique mobile users around the world.

By the time we published our Digital in 2016 report just over a month ago, that figure stood at 3.79 billion – an increase of around 4% year-on-year, and representing a global penetration rate of roughly 51%

However, the data that GSMAI published this week puts that global unique user figure at around 4.70 billion – an upward correction of more than 900 million unique users.

This new figure means that global mobile penetration now sits at more than 63%, or almost two-thirds of the world’s population.

That figure is already impressive enough, but when you consider that the penetration calculation includes people of all ages – from newborn babies to the world’s oldest people – it’s even more startling.

The size of GSMAI’s correction may seem quite extreme, but in fact, these new figures bring them in line with data already published by Ericsson, who reported 4.9 billion unique mobile users around the world in the November 2015 edition of their highly regarded Mobility Report.


To add even more weight to this adjustment, it’s worth remembering a couple of other stats we reported in our Digital in 2016 report.

Firstly, the number of people making purchases via their mobile phones jumped more than 50% in 2015:


Secondly, our love affair with mobiles has changed our social media habits too, with mobile messengers claiming all the big headlines in our analysis of the numbers of our Digital in 2016 report – so much so that we’re confidently predicting a mobile messenger will overtake Facebook to become the world’s most active social platform within the next 18 months.

What’s more, with smartphones accounting for 75% of all mobile handsets sold in Q4 2015, mobile-centricity won’t just re-shape our social media behaviours either; mobile is already claiming an increasing amount of people’s ‘TV’ time, and it’s unlikely that any part of our lives will remain untouched by mobile in the coming months.

online tv

So, if all that leaves you thinking you need to get more active in mobile, you’ll want to check out the valuable tips, advice and ideas in our free Social Brands ebook – you can even read the full thing in the SlideShare embed below: