Never in human history has any gadget or technology achieved 100% penetration levels. Not cars, not motorbikes and mopeds, not even bicycles. Not the Walkman, not the CD player, not the television, Playstation, VCR, DVD player nor even radio. Not the PC, not the internet. Not even such basic necessities we all expect, like running water or electricity. The wristwatch may have seemed ubiquitous, but it wan't. It never reached every wrist. The pen and paper technology, basic pencils, do not reach the total human population because still 800 million adults on the planet are illiterate and have no use for such a technology. But even illiterate humans, beyond the reach of electricity are using mobile phones today. (yes in many parts of Africa and Asia and Latin America, schools provide free recharging service for mobile phones, as an incentive to have the parents send the kids to schoo. and get their phones recharged, for those living in villages and farms that don't have electricity)
But mobile. Mobile reached 6.7 Billion active accounts/subscriptions last year by December 2012, and grew from a little over 6 Billion, adding over 650 million new accounts ie grew new paying users by 11% in just one year. (Isn't this an awesome industry, the fastest-growing Trillion-dollar industry in human history, and the epicenter of all digital convergence). And how, this year, we will definitely add at least another 600 million, probably even more than that. So this is the historic year, when we will have the 'Mobile Moment'. A gadget or technology will grow to become bigger than total human population. Mobile accounts already are bigger than the populations of Europe, Oceania, Latin America, the Middle East and even North America. Asia is almost at 100% and Africa will reach 100% penetration rate level well before this decade is done (they are already past 70% penetration rate). Leading countries are past 200% like the UAE and Hong Kong.
So now we are on the countdown to the Mobile Moment. When will it happen? My current projections say it will happen in July of 2013. The planet is at 7.07 Billion humans and we are at 6.71 Billion mobile subscriptions now in January 2013. We are growing new mobile accounts at a rate of about 54 million per month.
Now, remember, the total mobile subscription count is not the same as actual mobile phones in use (that is less, as some will have multiple accounts but use one phone, and do the SIM-card-switch between different carriers/operators to save in costs or optimize in telecoms traffic behavior). Also remember, because some of us have two phones, and others who have one phone have more than one account, and as some of the mobile accounts are actually machine-accounts (electric meters, watering irrigation systems, healthcare warning systems etc) the actual number of 'unique users' as human beings is well below that magical number. But these are the numbers at the end of 2012:
MOBILE SUBCRIBERS, PHONES, AND USERS AT END OF 2012
Planet . . . . . . . . . . 7.1 Billion humans
Mobile accounts . . . 6.7 Billion total active subscriptions (94% of all humans)
Phones in use . . . . 5.2 Billion including those with 2 phones (73% of all humans)
Unique users . . . . . 4.3 Billion humans who have at least one phone and account (60% of all humans)
Source: TomiAhonen Almanac 2013
This data may be freely shared
Lets see as the numbers start to come in. I expect some analysts to jump on the mobile moment number earlier, and also, that as we'll hit the 7.0 Billion active accounts number before technically passing human population count at almost 7.1 Billion, we may see the seven billion number celebrated around May or June.
But yes, this is the monster number coming this year. It will be widely reported and a lot of pundits will give their commentary on fhis pervasive technology. So a few quick thoughts - most of those phones in use are not smartphones (only 1.1 Billion were at the end of last year). The number 1 used service on those mobile devices is no longer voice calls, it is SMS text messaging. More than two out of three phones in use is a cameraphone so for most humans on the planet, the only camera they have ever used, was on a phone, not a stand-alone Canon or Nikon or Olympus haha..
As to services, more than a third of these mobile phone users access the internet on their phones at least part of the time and nearly a third access news on their phones. 60% of mobile phone owners have received advertising on their phones already so mobile is becoming the biggest advertising platform by reach, totally dwarfing television, print and the PC based legacy internet, and rivalled only by radio anymore. And yes, obviously, all data in this blog may be freely shared and re-used and translated and turned into infographics etc.. Please provide links back here if you do and also tell me via Twitter - I am @tomiahonen of course - and I'll tweet links to your articles that talk about these numbers.
I'll be giving you a lot more data on the mobile industry as we near the publication date for the brand new TomiAhonen Almanac 2013 edition, but if you wanted all the mobile data in an ebook/mbook that you can save on your tablet, laptop or smartphone - now's the time to order the TomiAhonen Almanac 2012. Anyone who buys the old edition now, gets the new edition also, for the same low price of ony 9.99 Euros. A great value on the 180 page statistical compendium of all major mobile industry stats. So check out the TomiAhonen Almanac 2012.