Smartphones have swarmed the world market. There were about 4.3 billion people in the world who owned a smartphone at the end of 2022. That's half of the global population. But the number of people or users who accessed the internet through mobiles was even higher than 4.3 billion. There were 4.6 billion people who accessed mobile internet, and 4 billion of them used a smartphone to do it. This means that the remaining 600 million people used a feature phone to access mobile internet. This also means that of the 4.3 billion smartphone users, 300 million didn't use the mobile internet at all.
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The data was published in GSMA's sixth annual 'State of Mobile Internet Connectivity 2023' report. As per the report, 69% or slightly more than two-thirds of global smartphone owners accessed mobile internet on a 4G-enabled device, while 17% used a 5G-enabled device. This figure represents mobile phones that are largely in the matured markets such as East Asia and Pacific and North America.
Note that 69% of smartphones used to access mobile internet in Sub-Saharan Africa, and 33% in the Middle East and North Africa, were still 3G and 2G only mobiles. Thus, most low and middle-income countries don't have users who can either afford to upgrade to a 4G/5G phone or want to because of low utility for them or because of no access to high-speed networks in the first place.
Why About 300 Million Smartphone Users Didn't Use Mobile Internet
The data suggests that 3 out of 4 smartphone owners in the adult category (above 18) use mobile internet globally. As we talked about the numbers above, there were over 300 million smartphone users who didn't use mobile internet. But why is that? Why are users with a smartphone not accessing the digital ecosystem lying at their fingertips?
There could be plenty of reasons for this. Firstly, they might not see any need for mobile internet in the first place. These could be users in the old age category who have lived most of their lives without relying on the internet and they might not intend to start now. Secondly, there could be many smartphone users living in areas where mobile internet is not present at all. Then, another possibility is that there are smartphone owners who aren't educated or are equipped with any basic literacy or digital skills.