A report last week claimed that more than one billion smartphones are now in use around the world, with Africa identified by experts as the next big area of smartphone penetration growth.
Strategy Analytics released the report last week, with senior analyst Scott Bicheno tracing the rapid increase in smartphone use to the launch of Apple’s iPhone in 2007, challenging Nokia in the market.
“Nokia remained a dominant force in smartphones for over a decade until the arrival of Apple’s iconic iPhone in 2007,” Bicheno in a press statement. He calls 2007 the Year of the iPhone, and traces the subsequent growth of the market from there.
“The iPhone revolutionized smartphone design and it catalyzed industry growth,” he said. “By the third quarter of 2011, we estimate there were 708 million smartphones in use worldwide. After a further year of soaring demand, the number of smartphones in use worldwide reached 1.038 billion units during the third quarter of 2012.”
This number is only increasing. Though nearly one in seven people now own a smartphone, there is still huge potential for growth. Neil Mawston, the executive director at Strategy Analytics, says the growing market in developing countries will push the number higher still.
“Most of the world does not yet own a smartphone and there remains huge scope for future growth, particularly in emerging markets such as China, India and Africa,” he said. “The first billion smartphones in use worldwide took 16 years to reach, but we forecast the next billion to be achieved in less than three years, by 2015.”
Africa is certainly one such market. There are varying estimates of smartphone penetration on the continent, from 3 percent to 17 percent, but all agree that penetration is increasing. Samsung estimates that it now stands at 7 percent, up from 5 percent last year.
Jon Evans at Tech Crunch foresees huge growth in the African smartphone market based on current figures. So if smartphone adoption in Africa follows the same path as dumb/feature-phone adoption, then right now is the rough equivalent of 2003, and smartphones will be 15% of the African mobile market in 2014, 23% in 2015, and 40% five years from now,” he writes. Though he believes smartphone adoption in Africa may be even faster than this, due to mature distribution channels, the competition that already exists in the sector and the greater levels of wealth that now exist on the continent.
There are already four million Nigerians using smartphones, with that number expected to hit 25 million in the next four years.