Smartphone Penetration and Usage Statistics

How many people have smartphones and what are they doing on them?

One of my 2012 mobile predictions was the (continued) rise of the smartphone. When a majority of people have such a powerful connected device, it changes everything for brand engagement.

I’ve created this handy chart to show where things stand across a range of countries. As there is no single data source, I’ve cobbled the information together from a variety of places. The EU5 and US are based on Comscore (Oct 2011), the others are from Google/IPSOS ( and Informa. Similar data can be found in the excellent Netsize 2011 guide.

One of the problems of using different data sources is that they are using slightly different measurements. For example, Comscore use a panel whereas the others will take data from network operators or the GSM Association. Take the UK, for example, where figures for smartphone penetration range from 46% to 53% depending on who you ask.

The chart below (using the same data sources) shows what people are doing on their devices, as a percentage of smartphone owners:

There are some key differences depending on the territory. For example (non-native)apps are much less popular in Poland, Czech Repbulic, and Turkey than the UK, Australia or the US. One key reason may simply be down to language. There are less apps in Turkish than English.

With a couple of exceptions, both mobile web and email represent the highest media use, not apps. Although some brands have begun to understand the importance of mobile optimised sites, many of them have focussed their efforts on apps. A significant oversight by brands is with email. Whilst it represents some of the greatest smartphone usage, few campaigns are optimising for it. Clearly a missed opportunity as the evidence is that where emails are optimised for mobile both read and click-through rates are significantly higher.

One interesting development is how usage has changed during the last 12 months. The chart on the right shows how apps and mobile web have grown in particular. Whilst SMS usage still remains high (the chart shows only SMS outside of peer-to-peer, such as brand marketing), it is flattening off.

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