2012’s Mobile Numbers, Part 1: Approaching the “Mobile Moment”

mobile moment

tomi ahonenTomi Ahonen is one of the mobile industry gurus to whom I regularly pay attention. He’s an ex-Nokia exec now based in Hong Kong, and he’s forgotten more about the mobile industry than most people will learn. His stature in the field is such that Forbes put him in the number one slot in their list of top ten power influencers in mobile at the start of this year. If you want to know what’s going on in the mobile industry, you should make sure that you visit Ahonen’s blog, Communities Dominate Brands, on a regular basis.

In the most recent post on his blog, Ahonen talks about the numbers that describe that state of mobile for the year 2012, and those numbers are bigger than ever. He observes that we’re approaching what he calls “The Mobile Moment”, which should arrive in early 2013 and is described as the point in time when there are as many active mobile phone subscriptions as there are human beings alive. Those numbers are getting closer — here’s the estimated world population:

world population

…and here’s the estimated number of mobile subscriptions, which includes “post-paid” accounts and accounts with pre-paid SIMs:

mobile subscriptions

Remember that we’re counting subscriptions and not subscribers. There are a number of people in the world with more than one mobile subscription (myself included — I have the “mobile dev special”, with three mobile phone accounts), especially in the emerging world, where it’s not uncommon to see people with a “deck” of prepaid SIM cards, which they swap in and out of their phone depending on the circumstances and whom they’re calling.

Ahonen says that the mobile industry added 700 million new paying mobile subscriptions this year — 11% growth and three times the installed base of all tablets (the iPad and all its competitors combined).

handsets in use

He reports that there are currently 5.3 billion handsets being used by 4.3 billion people. This means that the average person has 1.23 handsets (I myself have two; an iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy S III) and that about six out of ten people have a mobile device handy, connected to a mobile network.

unique mobile users

1.3 billion of the 5.3 billion mobile phones today are smartphones — that’s about 25% of the total population. That makes for a mere 25% of the mobile phone market, meaning that there are still many opportunities for mobile app developers out there; the market’s still largely untapped!


This article also appears in Mobilize!: The CTS Mobile Tech Blog.

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