Remember the 90s, when cell phones were no longer a product of science-fiction? Brick-sized, with black & white screens and pixels the size of a walnut, these devices were state-of-the-art back then. They were also scarce.
Even in the late 90s, people could hardly afford one, let alone multiple units. But fast forward to 2015, mobile phones are not just hundreds of times faster and more versatile, they’re also vastly more affordable. And they’re so popular that one simply isn’t enough anymore.
7 billion subscriptions divided among 3.6 billion users
According to a study conducted by We Are Social, the total number of mobile users today is 3.65 billion. Mobile penetration (i.e. unique users as a percentage of total population) sits at 51%, and the total number of mobile subscriptions is 7.09 billion. You may ask yourself, how is it possible to have 7 billion subscriptions with just 3.6 billion mobile users? The answer is simple. Everyone today owns 1.94 mobile subscriptions. In other words, more than one phone.
This, of course, excludes old beat-up devices sitting in drawers gathering dust. These are active subscriptions that people are currently paying for and using on a daily basis. However, the numbers shouldn’t be misinterpreted (hence the asterisk in the headline). These individual figures aren’t evenly spread out on the globe, meaning that while some people have no phones, others may have as many as four.
For instance, Africa has a 79% ownership rate, whereas Eastern Europe is swimming in mobile devices with 139% ownership. Other territories that are ‘stepping over the line’ include Southeast Asia (119%), Central Asia (112%), the Middle East (124%), Oceania (109%), and South America (126%). The United States firmly holds a one-device-per-user position with 101% ownership.
Mobile-wise, the least-fortunate territory seems to be South Asia, particularly the area around India where 77% of the population owns a cell phone. Even so, the ownership rate is staggering. Remember that these numbers don’t reflect the actual number of mobile devices in existence, which can be anywhere from 7 billion to 20 billion. Imagine how much e-waste we’re sitting on.
The numbers go hand in hand with recent research by ITU, which revealed that there are about as many cell-phone subscriptions (6.8 billion) as there are people on Earth.
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