Mobile Internet: Smartphones for Everyone?

The 2 billion who earn less than $5.00 a day will remain offline for decades

With the smartphone market now approaching saturation in all developed internet economies attention is now turning to developing and emerging economies. The bottom line is will mobile really go all the way – that is, will everyone really have mobile, one day?

We estimate that at the end of 2015 a total of 2.6 billion individuals were active smartphone users. Given that the worldwide population at the end of 2015 was 7.3 billion then this implies a penetration level of 2.6/7.3 billion, or 35.6%.

In addition, the United Nations (UN) has been making excellent progress towards its stated goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030. This suggests that the underlying economics will support a smartphone penetration level approaching 100%: even the world’s poorest will be able to get online, eventually.

At least, such is the narrative used by those who believe that practically everyone will have a smartphone, one day.

Nakono’s position is different: based on 2015 figures our analysis is that the long-term addressable market for mobile is around 4.1 billion, not 7.3 billion and the poorest 2 billion may never have mobile internet – where ‘never’ means many decades.


Global poverty levels have been falling for 30 years5

But global poverty levels will not fall to zero6

Classic economic analysis8

Situation 1: Mature Mobile Markets8

Top End Smartphones10

Mid-range Smartphones10

Budget Smartphones10


Situation 2: Unserved Mobile Markets12

A new economic model15



Report Highlights

  • Global poverty statistics
  • Required smartphone production costs
  • Size of unserved market
  • Economic environment and outlook
  • Cost to fully serve the poorest 2 billion
  • Market segmentation

Ordering Information

Title: Mobile Internet: Smartphones for Everyone?
Pages: 17
Updated: 17 May 2016
License: Single User
Format: PDF
Delivery: Email and Online.
Price: £149
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