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Not Just That: Smartphone Ownership Now Extends to Half the Global Population

According to the latest report from GSMA, a global organization at the forefront of the mobile ecosystem, smartphones have had a significant impact in today’s world. The report, titled “The State of Mobile Internet Connectivity,” reveals that by the end of 2022, 4.3 billion individuals, accounting for 54% of the global population, owned a smartphone. Additionally, it was found that 4.6 billion people, or 57% of the population, actively use mobile internet.

Among the mobile internet users, nearly 4 billion individuals, or 49% of the global population, accessed the internet through smartphones. Another segment of approximately 600 million people, representing 8% of the global population, relied on feature phones. Interestingly, 350 million smartphone owners refrained from using mobile internet, indicating various barriers to internet adoption.

Contrary to the assumption that smartphone owners face fewer barriers, the GSMA Consumer Survey uncovered persistent challenges. These include a lack of awareness of mobile internet, perceived irrelevance, insufficient literacy and digital skills, safety and security concerns, and network coverage issues.

While mobile internet adoption has been consistently increasing, the growth rate slowed in 2022, with only 200 million new users compared to 300 million in previous years. The majority of this growth came from low- and middle-income countries, where 95% of the unconnected population resides. In the least developed countries, nearly 30 million additional people embraced mobile internet in 2022, equating to one in four people being connected.

However, there are still areas that lack mobile broadband coverage, affecting nearly 400 million individuals or 5% of the global population. These gaps are primarily seen in rural, poor, and sparsely populated regions, posing significant challenges in bridging the digital divide.

Out of the 3.4 billion individuals still unconnected to mobile internet, almost 90% (3 billion) live in areas already covered by mobile broadband but do not utilize the service. Although the usage gap is slowly decreasing from 40% in 2021 to 38% in 2022, it remains eight times larger than the coverage gap.

In terms of smartphone capabilities, at the end of 2022, 69% of smartphones used by mobile internet users were 4G-enabled, 17% were 5G-enabled, and 14% were limited to 3G. This marks a significant decline from 31% in 2018.

Finally, recent research highlights that four iPhones and six Samsung devices were included in the world’s top 10 best-selling smartphones list. These numbers showcase the enduring popularity of these brands.

Overall, the report emphasizes the widespread ownership and usage of smartphones, with the barriers to mobile internet adoption being more complex than expected. It also highlights the challenges in expanding mobile broadband coverage and narrowing the usage gap.

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