Our latest statshot on the state of Digital, Social & Mobile usage around the world shows that the pace of change shows no signs of slowing:
Year-on-year growth remains strong, particularly in the use of mobile social media:
- Internet user growth: +7.6%
- Social media user growth: +8.7%
- Mobile user growth: +3.4%
- Mobile social media user growth: +23.3%
There are some important changes to the ways people are using mobile devices too – read on for the full story.
The latest data suggest that global internet penetration now stands at 43%, up from 41% in August 2014.
The numbers also show that 225 million people around the world used the internet for the first time in the past 12 months, translating to 600,000 new users every day, or 7 every second.
However, we believe that the figures in this month's report still under-estimate the true number of internet users due to the considerable number of mobile internet users coming online in developing markets.
In addition to the existing 2.9 billion mobile broadband subscribers around the world, Ericsson reports that mobile broadband subscriptions are currently growing at 30% year-on-year, with 50 million new subscribers every month.
Social media usage continues to grow around the world, with global penetration rates now in excess of 30%.
Facebook continues to dominate the global landscape, accounting for almost 1.5 billion users.
The world's favourite social platform shows little sign of losing its grip either, with 180 million new users joining the community over the past 12 months, up 13.7% year-on-year.
To put that in perspective, Facebook is still adding around half a million new users every day, or almost 6 new users every second.
Other platforms still outperform Facebook in some markets though, notably China, where Facebook access continues to be restricted.
QZone remains the most active social network in China, with an active global user base of 668 million. QZone grew 4% year-on-year according to the latest data from owner Tencent, but this is tempered by growth in Tencent's real growth engine, WeChat, which added almost as many users as Facebook in the past 12 months (see below for more stats on WeChat).
VKontakte continues to lead in Russia, but the latest data suggest that globally active users on the Russia-based platform are falling slightly each month.
More than half of the world's population now uses a mobile phone, although reports of the actual number of users varies between sources:
The 3.4% annual growth in the number of unique mobile users around the world misrepresents the story that's taking place behind the numbers.
The real growth is in the adoption of smartphones, with 2 million devices sold every day around the world.
This shift to 'smart devices' means that the consolidation we highlighted in our analysis of our global report back in January continues.
A key reason for this is that data-powered services such as chat and VOIP apps mean people no longer need to maintain multiple handsets in order to benefit from network-specific cheap calls.
The growth in sales of smart devices has resulted in a significant change in global share by type of device, with smartphones now accounting for more than 40% of the world's active handsets (i.e. handsets connected to an active mobile subscription).
Feature phones still dominate, accounting for 6 out of 10 of the world's active phones, but with smartphones contributing 75% of all new phones sold in Q1 2015, it's likely that smartphones will account for more than half of all globally active handsets before the end of the first half of 2016.
Despite the slowing growth in the number of unique mobile users, the steady growth in the number of active mobile subscriptions has continued thanks to the growth in machine-to-machine (M2M) subscriptions associated with 'the internet of things'.
Data from Ericsson suggest that there are roughly a quarter of a billion M2M subscriptions in use around the world today, accounting for barely 3.3% of the global total (most subscriptions are used to power mobile phones for human-to-human communications).
However, Ericsson's projections suggest that this share will grow to more than 25% over the next 5 years to almost 8 billion active subscriptions – that's more than the global total for all types of cellular subscription today.
Mobile Social Media
The number of users accessing social media through mobile devices has exploded in the past 12 months, with 1 million new users accessing via phones or tablets every single day.
This has delivered year-on-year growth of more than 23%, with global penetration now exceeding a quarter of the world's population.
What's more, with around 12 new active mobile social users every second, it's likely that the global total will exceed 2 billion before the end of 2015.
However, it's worth noting that there are some interesting developments within the mobile social world too, with the growth of mobile-centric 'chat apps' overshadowing the growth of more conventional social networks.
WhatsApp is the world's fastest growing 'big' platform (i.e. platforms with more than 100 million active users); the Facebook-owned platform has added more than 300 million new users since August 2014, achieving impressive year-on-year growth of 60%.
Meanwhile, the data suggest that Facebook Messenger may have doubled its user base since this time last year, with active users up 200 million since the start of 2015 alone.
WeChat (Weixin) added roughly 150 million users around the world in the past 12 months too, translating to year-on-year growth of 39%.
It's worth noting that Viber is also growing at an impressive rate, especially in Southeast Asia, where it is capturing significant share. The Skype-like service already has around a quarter of a billion monthly active users, up 40 million (19%) since the start of 2015.
As we reported in our comprehensive global report back in January, the future of all things digital seems interwoven with the growth of smart mobile devices.
As these devices become an integral part of life all over the world, marketers will increasingly need to understand how people are using these devices, and not just how many are using them.
Smart devices are so much more than just phones; for many people around the world, they are our primary tool for communicating with friends, family and business contacts, for accessing the internet, for watching content such as TV shows and movies, for playing games, and many other activities besides.
As a result, marketers need to stop treating smart devices as merely another channel through which to deliver ad impressions, and start using them to create more of a meaningful impression for their brands.
If you'd like some tips and ideas on how to make that possible, you may like these recent posts:
Alternatively, if you're looking for more stats on individual countries, try our in-depth Digital, Social & Mobile reports: