My Photo

Ordering Information

Tomi on Twitter is @tomiahonen

  • Follow Tomi on Twitter as @tomiahonen
    Follow Tomi's Twitterfloods on all matters mobile, tech and media. Tomi has over 8,000 followers and was rated by Forbes as the most influential writer on mobile related topics

Book Tomi T Ahonen to Speak at Your Event

  • Contact Tomi T Ahonen for Speaking and Consulting Events
    Please write email to tomi (at) tomiahonen (dot) com and indicate "Speaking Event" or "Consulting Work" or "Expert Witness" or whatever type of work you would like to offer. Tomi works regularly on all continents

Tomi on Video including his TED Talk

  • Tomi on Video including his TED Talk
    See Tomi on video from several recent keynote presentations and interviews, including his TED Talk in Hong Kong about Augmented Reality as the 8th Mass Media


Blog powered by Typepad

« Brief Notes from Smartphone Bloodbath Battlefield in Year Three: Digital Jamboree | Main | First Look into Final 2012 full year market shares for smartphones and OS wars, the Top 3 are settled on both »

December 19, 2012



Very good article. Regards from Turkiye!

Jon Arne Sæterås

This is what we have been waiting for since January this year! :D Thank you, Tomi!


Can you clarify what is meant by "SMS active users" and "Voice call users". These cannot be actual users but mobile subscriptions which partake in these services?

I am more interested to know the number of unique human users who use SMS vs. voice calls than the number of subscriptions which use these.

Alex Kerr

Thank you for this Tomi, great data.

I did find it raised several questions for me though, it would be great to have some clarification if you have a moment!

1.) You write "3 out of 4 humans ... uses a 'dumbphone' - many of which have good cameras, large color touch-screens and full HTML internet browsers, and can download Java games including Angry Birds, but are not smartphones."
I understand it is industry convention to not call devices of that specification, smartphones (and hence why you are making the distinction!). But I would respectfully suggest that the industry is wholly wrong. A device with that spec is a smartphone, full blown and fully fledged. It can do everything fuller smartphones can do, but to a lesser spec, but it is still on the same scale, not a different class of device. Java Mobile (J2ME) has VERY fully featured APIs these days, excellent developer tools, and is mature and stable. That native apps on feature/dumbphones are not written in J2ME is an implementation detail, not a differentiator indicating a different class of device. And of course we know Android runs as a sandboxed virtual machine, too.

2.) Just to clarify - where you refer to 'WAP' do you literally mean technically WAP, i.e. WML pages, in all cases? (e.g. Nokia 3410 with WAP/WML over a CSD data bearer ) Because I have heard it used elsewhere to mean 'not full HTML browsing like a PC desktop', thus lumping valid XHTML over a GPRS TCP/IP data bearer in with an older class of non-(X)HTML device (a different beast to my mind, e.g. Nokia 6230 ). It should be noted for the purists that WAP 2.0 is (X)HTML using standard internet protocols, and therefore fully valid. Nokia seemed to replace WAP/WML with XHTML around the 2003/4 mark - are devices older than this still being used (with a data connection)!? I thought WAP gateways were no longer in use for starters...I'd be very interested if they still are.

3.) As I understand it, MMS requires a working mobile internet connection on the phone to send the data, so am I right in thinking the discrepancy between this and the number of people using internet on their mobile (2.1 billion), i.e. 800 million people is due to them simply not using the valid working data connection they have to browse the internet with, for some reason ?

4.) You write "Apps are downloaded now by 1.2 Billion people (this includes Java based apps on featurephones as well as more advanced apps on smartphones)". This puzzles me because the numbers of smartphone users are 1.3 billion, and vast numbers of people use apps on featurephones (for example, Nokia alone sees downloads in the low-hundred-millions per month on S40). There are somewhere between 3 - 4 billion featurephones capable of running Java apps. Only a subset of that will have internet (tho noting apps can be sideloaded onto featurephones via bluetooth or cable), and then only a subset of those will actually install apps, but still, to me the numbers don't add up, especially when you factor in GetJar, any other independent J2ME-carrying app stores, and loads of carrier-specific appstores. The total of 1.2 billion might work if we said most smartphone owners don't download apps, but of course that makes no sense. I would expect a figure at the very least of 2 billion+ (smart and featurephones) downloading apps, no?

Thank you again for all the data.


Tomi T Ahonen

Hi V-Pills, Jon, Matt and Alex

V-Pills - thanks, you're welcome

Jon - thanks, you too, you're welcome (and I trust you didnt' really wait 11 months for all this data, some of the data points have been released during the year on this blog haha)

Matt - good questions, but a near hopeless task and wish. Its like Radicati measuring 3.1 Billion email boxes but unable to tell us exactly how many unique users ie how many of those are the same user at work and at home, how many more are deliberate duplicates allowing us to use fake emails to avoid spam when registering to miscellaneous sites, plus old and unused mail boxes etc. We do know there are duplicates, but only very deep global uniform-methodology end-user surveys can give guidance on the multiple usage.

Same goes for voice calls and SMS users. What we DO know, is that this percentage and absolute numbers are based on total subscriptions. And while you may think you want the unique user count - actually the subscriber count is perhaps also useful - very often we have clear and distinct behavior and traffic we put on say our 'company phone' compared to our 'personal phone'. So when 83% of all global mobile subscriptions are used for SMS text messaging, and as I have two mobile accounts currently, I do use both for SMS (on two separate networks, from two countries). I am sorry if this is not good enough for you, I can tell you, nobody has the data you are wishing for, and this blog is by far the deepest data you'll find for free anywhere. I hope it helps...

Alex, Alex, Alex, what will I do with you haha.. Always the deeper and technical questions, eh? Ok, lets try.

Dumbphones? Seriously? You of all people. You KNOW the point is what can be measured, and its utterly pointless to bicker about where is the line between an advanced featurephone and a dumb smartphone - for years we've had far more advanced 'dumbphones' in Japan than for example most top smartphones in the USA.. Its what can be measured, and soon the distinction becomes academic, as before this decade is done, the dumbphone will be dead and all mobiles will be smartphones.

On WAP - its still very big in Africa, India, Indonesia etc.. I think you're thinking too much with an European focus on this haha

On MMS - this is active users as is browsing, not whether the handset and network offer that ability. There are more than 4 Billion phones that are connected to, and technically 'configured' to be able to access browser-based content but the users don't use 'the mobile internet' for whatever reason. Many of those are, however, using MMS. So this is not a measurement of which devices are connected and configured, it is actual active users of the service (MMS or browsing)

Apps downloaded - actually no, Alex, not nearly all smartphone users globally download apps. Remember still nearly one in ten smartphones in the West are employee phones, most which are limited or prohibited from downloading apps. And while you and I are geeks who download everything, not everybody is.. All recent smartphone user surveys have far less than total app usage. The number I have here includes Java/Brew users on lesser phones than smartphones ie featurephones. As always, I optimize my numbers based on all data points I find for a 'best fit' so its a near forecast of the conglomeration of all recent survey and measured usage data I've found. And it includes both smartphones and featurephones.

I hope that helped..

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Wayne Borean

I agree with Alex. If a phone is 'programmable', which any phone you can install a Java or Brew application on is, it is a SmartPhone.

Which includes phones like my old Motorola Razr flip phone, a great little device. Just what exactly is being used as the definition of SmartPhone?


Tomi T Ahonen


I am using the industry standard definition and yes, there is plenty of gray area between low end smartphones and high end featurephones, for us to argue 'how' they should be classified is pointless - because they cannot be measured that way. The industry measures only two types of phones, smartphones and dumbphones. I use the standard definition as used by Gartner, IDC, Strategy Analytics and Canalys, the four big analyst houses who report on quarterly smartphone and dumbphone sales. I hear you, you make a good point, but if its not accurately measured by the industry, for us to cry on this blog that this is not perfect information, is utterly pointless. I report here what is measured, be happy we have at least that level of detail

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Alex Kerr

Hi Tomi,

Thank you :) Yep, I ask the detailed technical questions to make sure we're all reading from the same page - too much misunderstanding and hype floating around out there in the world (not on here of course ;-)

1.) OK, I see exactly what you're saying (I think!) and good point, for stats purposes it only matters what can be measured. I was really lamenting that those measurements are wrongly classified (and I note that you are not disagreeing with my points but saying something different). I won't make it here, but I can and have written the arguments that all featurephones for the last decade that have internet and app install capability are fully fledged smartphones, albeit low end ones. I agree that all phones will be smartphones within a few years, but it's provable (well, based on multiple good sources) that they will either be still labelled as featurephones and/or (more likely) not just running the current set of smartphone OSes (e.g. Android etc.). Multiple sources point to about another 4 billion featurephones being sold by around 2016, and there are currently over 4 billion in use. Massive smartphone (Android) growth does not negate several billion of these current and future featurephones still being in use for many years yet, especially as they will filter down in used form to the poorest (a few billion of whom still do not have phones). I would say however that we can blanket pretty much all these devices with a 'smartphone' label, and thus concur with you :)

2.) WAP - Hmm, wish I knew how much was WAP 1 (WML) and how much WAP 2 (XHTML) or HTML.

3.) Yep, I see what you're saying. I'm just wondering if those 800 million users that have MMS but are not browsing, are aware that they have a working data connection on the phone. However, I will somewhat challenge myself on that because I forgot the network will classify it as a different service anyway from an administrative point of view, so although the data connection is established, you (probably?) can't use the MMS data allowance (noting it's sold as numbers of MMS, rather than an actual data allowance) for web browsing etc.

4.) OK, I stand corrected, that is definitely good to know and an interesting data point. General *hype* suggests that smartphone users download apps and featurephone users don't, but on both counts that's clearly far from true!


Antoine RJ Wright

Very impressive set of stats as usual Tomi; I've got this ready to go up towards my audience, but I remain with some questions that probably won't be answered until I get into the '13 Almanac:

- You mention here that there are about 700M new subs globally; about how many dead/non-active ones? I'm guessing that of the 700M that many of these were new to mobile, but some percentage could have been folks getting a second account or even re-initializing an account?

- Sort of the same question when it comes to devices. There was the increase in sales (11% I believe, am being lazy in not scrolling up); but how many new versus resales. I think I mentioned to you about this time last year that I felt that many markets are hitting a plateau in terms of new sales, with many sales being to folks who already own devices. I wonder how that aspect of things is being recorded (if it is) and how that effects the overall usage-environment of mobile going forward (maturity in services, developers declining in importance to strategy/management/alt fields, etc.).

- You stayed away from mentioning LBS/GPS services or devices in this round. I hope you touch on that and more (P2P usage, NFC beyond the mobile payments hype, VoIP, etc.). I know that you track and stay attached more or less to those things that are actually making money, yet a lot of the tech/usage that we've been hearing in 2012 isn't generating much of anything (pennies vs the dollars of other industries when they started on the maturity curve). Do you see mobile, or at least those not prepared to see mobile beyond communications, able to get out of that kind of rut going forward? Or, will it take that 8th mass media, and a few other hardware/services/legislation steps, to see beyond "its a smaller radio/TV/computer/phone" that many around mobile's black slabs seem to stay entrenched in?

Again, am reposting this on my site; but in a cleaner table. I can never seem to just grab the necessary snippets of your pieces like this without doing some mild reformatting.

Always a pleasure to read Tomi; blessings.


Did you just explain to Tomi that people in the developing world are more likely to use pre-paid SIM cards than people in the USA?

Was this a revelation to you?



Baron95 were sad
Android is too powerfull
china & korea phone will kill microsoft & apple
Please be gentle to him



relax bro
Android winning is not the end of the world.
Apple and microsoft not gonna bankrupt in 3-5 year.
Thats enough time for you
Your doctor said you still have 1 year


Some Android numbers from China:

China absolutely loves Android

"So if 295,000 of the 1.5 million [Android] phones activated daily [with Google] (rounded up for easy math) are sold in China, that means that 20-percent (19.666-percent) of all the numbers you see getting thrown around come from one country [China]. And that is a whole lot of smartphones.

Interesting aside -- it also means that a full 13-percent of all "android devices" sold in China aren't even counted as Android activations by Google."

At the end of the piece there is a bold prediction:
"Looking forward, Android is expected to continue gaining market share globally and, by 2015, one in every two handsets[id] sold worldwide will be powered by it."

Sounds less great if you read on:
"... the market share of this platform could potentially peak – or even decline – after 2016 owing to a more aggressive penetration of the alternative OSs, most notably Windows Phone"

If the second part of the prediction is this bad, the first will be implausible too.

C. Enrique Ortiz

Hi Tomi, thanks for always great article/numbers/stats.

As a related note, see "Feature vs. Smartphone" -- a definition from 2009! (and still valid):



There can never be a $50 Windows phone because Microsoft already charges $30 or so for the WP license. And to make a dent in Android sales, the competitors need to be present in the sub-$100 market, because that is where the rapid growth happens in developing countries.

Tizen and Mozilla have already recognized this. Microsoft hasn't, the cheapest WP8 phone is still around $250. And Apple chose not to compete at the low end, which we increasingly see come back to bite them.



good job bro.
You really trash tomi
No wonder balmer told me to go to this website and learn from you.

I hope tomi follower will learn fast from you that wp8 is the future, android sucks. It would be a shame to use a cheap phone. It only show poor, not prestige.


"Oh, yes, their entire business plan was to make cheap electronics for Nokia et al cheap jungle smartphones."

First, you explain to Tomi that poor people tend to use pre-paid SIMs. Now you are explaining to us that Nokia supplier ST-Ericsson is going down because they do not make cheap Android phones.

I think you need some vacation. Go get some rest over the holidays.


You guys don't understand where Baron95 is coming from - in his world, the only use for poor people is to be put in labor camps making his iPhones, and then quickly shot if they fail to meet targets. I'm sure he could provide even more shareholder value by feeding the corpses of the unproductive labor to the productive labor to save on food costs.

Obviously also, anybody who doesn't choose to buy an iPhone must be unable to afford one, and should be quickly shipped off to one of these labor camps (or just immediately shot and turned into food for productive labor if they don't look strong enough). If you don't upgrade your iPhone immediately on the launch of a new iPhone, you also obviously can't afford to upgrade and should be quickly deported.

Welcome to the wonderful world of Baron95, where only rich iPhone owners are real humans and the only people anybody should market to!



Soylent green is people.

My dad (almost 70) lost his phone 3 times in the past 10 year.

The second time is while he went on to other city.
He call me because he was on a tight schedule and don't want to sit in the carrier office waiting to be served. I went to the carrier office, ask them to temporary disconnect the service until my dad come to their office to replace the card. It wasn't a pleasant experience because there were lots of documents I need to sign.

The third time is while he went to other country.
Luckily, the person who took the phone do not use to call.

After that, my dad only use pre-paid.
and he was downgraded by baron95 from VIP into junk.



Baron95 is praying to the iGod again... :D

The comments to this entry are closed.

Available for Consulting and Speakerships

  • Available for Consulting & Speaking
    Tomi Ahonen is a bestselling author whose twelve books on mobile have already been referenced in over 100 books by his peers. Rated the most influential expert in mobile by Forbes in December 2011, Tomi speaks regularly at conferences doing about 20 public speakerships annually. With over 250 public speaking engagements, Tomi been seen by a cumulative audience of over 100,000 people on all six inhabited continents. The former Nokia executive has run a consulting practise on digital convergence, interactive media, engagement marketing, high tech and next generation mobile. Tomi is currently based out of Helsinki but supports Fortune 500 sized companies across the globe. His reference client list includes Axiata, Bank of America, BBC, BNP Paribas, China Mobile, Emap, Ericsson, Google, Hewlett-Packard, HSBC, IBM, Intel, LG, MTS, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Ogilvy, Orange, RIM, Sanomamedia, Telenor, TeliaSonera, Three, Tigo, Vodafone, etc. To see his full bio and his books, visit Tomi Ahonen lectures at Oxford University's short courses on next generation mobile and digital convergence. Follow him on Twitter as @tomiahonen. Tomi also has a Facebook and Linked In page under his own name. He is available for consulting, speaking engagements and as expert witness, please write to tomi (at) tomiahonen (dot) com

Tomi's eBooks on Mobile Pearls

  • Pearls Vol 1: Mobile Advertising
    Tomi's first eBook is 171 pages with 50 case studies of real cases of mobile advertising and marketing in 19 countries on four continents. See this link for the only place where you can order the eBook for download

Tomi Ahonen Almanac 2009

  • Tomi Ahonen Almanac 2009
    A comprehensive statistical review of the total mobile industry, in 171 pages, has 70 tables and charts, and fits on your smartphone to carry in your pocket every day.

Alan's Third Book: No Straight Lines

Tomi's Fave Twitterati