As Smartphones Attain Critical Mass, The Next Billion Users Will Be Less Sophisticated

With just over a billion people around the world having a smartphone in 2012, and the next billion smartphone adopters joining in within the next five years, smartphones have reached a tipping point. Malcolm Gladwell defines the tipping point as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point” within a sociological ecosystem. A technology hits critical mass when one-fifth of the population adopts it. For smartphones, developed economies witnessed this phenomenon in 2011.

North America and Europe top the global smartphone penetration rates, at 47% and 35%, respectively. However, they are outpaced in terms of the sheer number of users by the Asia Pacific region. In fact, China alone already has more smartphone users than any other country in the world. And our forecast shows that Asia Pacific is also the fastest-growing region for smartphone adoption, projected to increase by approximately 20% per year.

In the Forrester Research World Smartphone Forecast 2012 To 2017 (Global), we investigate the size, speed, operating system (OS) dominance, and user demographics of the competitors in the world’s smartphone showdown. Younger and wealthier adults are the early adopters of smartphones, but there will be a gradual progression toward adoption by lower-income and older adults as smartphones become cheaper and the offerings of basic phones become more limited.  

 

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The European Tablet Landscape

Tablet ownership in Western Europe is set to quadruple in the next five years: The percentage of European online consumers who own a tablet will increase from 14% in 2012 to 55% in 2017, according to the Forrester Research World Tablet Adoption Forecast, 2012 To 2017 (Global). This dramatic growth follows what was a pivotal year for tablets: Ownership doubled in 2012, and one in seven online Europeans now owns a tablet. The recently published Forrester report “The European Tablet Landscape” draws on our Technographics® data and looks at the profile of European tablet owners and their usage patterns. We found that:

  1. Unsurprisingly, tablet owners are tech-savvy. Today, tablets are most popular with 18- to 24-year-olds, with one in four online consumers in this age group now owning a tablet. Of all tablet owners, a high 45% state that they “like technology” and 36% agree that “technology is important for me.”
  2. Income is a driver . . . for now. About 24% of high-income European online consumers have a tablet, compared with 15% of online low-income consumers. But the growing variety of tablets and form factors as well as more competitive pricing will make tablets affordable for a wider range of consumers.
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