Half of Global Mobile Phone Users Still Use Their Device for Only Talking and Texting

Global Mobile Phone Users

Research by GSMA, a company that represents the interests of mobile operators’ worldwide, uniting nearly 800 operators with almost 300 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, has revealed that almost half of global mobile phone users still only use their devices to make voice calls and send SMS, according to new consumer research by GSMA Intelligence. The new Global Mobile Engagement Index (GMEI) measures the level of engagement of mobile phone users across a wide array of use cases and services. This first-of-its-kind consumer index is based on inputs from the 2016 GSMA Intelligence consumer survey, which surveyed mobile users across 56 global markets representing 80 per cent of the world’s population. The first GMEI study was released on February 16th 2017, and is expected to be updated every year.

The GMEI classifies mobile user engagement into four tiers: ‘Aficionados’ (the most engaged), ‘Pragmatists’, ‘Networkers’ and ‘Talkers’ (the least engaged). The research reveals that ‘Talkers’ – those who only use their mobile phones to make voice calls and send SMS – accounted for 47 per cent of adult mobile phone owners in 2016. However, this segment is forecast to shrink to 29 per cent of the total by 2030 as users across the developing world become more engaged due to advances in mobile innovation, affordability and availability.

Consumers can take part in an online survey here to discover which consumer segment they belong to and how they compare with those across the world that took part in the research.

“In an era of mobile being near ubiquitous around the world and at the centre of people’s lifestyles, there is a growing need to measure mobile user engagement levels to identify future industry growth opportunities,” said Hyunmi Yang, GSMA Chief Strategy Officer. “Consumer behaviours are continuing to change as mobile devices get smarter, services grow richer and societies become more connected. The Global Mobile Engagement Index is a unique industry tool to help understand these shifting trends.”

The GMEI report offers a number of insights based on the latest research:

  • South Korea, Qatar and the US were the three highest-scoring markets in terms of mobile engagement
  • Traditional SMS is still used more frequently than IP messaging in several mature markets, including France and the US
  • ‘Millennials’ are not necessarily more engaged mobile users than older generations; in markets such as South Korea, more than a quarter of smartphone users are ‘baby boomers’ (aged 51-69)
  • There are some markets, such as Myanmar, where smartphone ownership is relatively high but user engagement is low, due to digital illiteracy and a lack of locally relevant content
  • There are several African countries with high mobile user engagement in financial services; for instance, in Kenya and Tanzania, around four in every five adult mobile phone owners use their phones for mobile money services
  • More than 70 per cent of smartphone users globally watch free online videos on their phone (e.g. YouTube), and one in two smartphone users watch or replay live TV programmes on their device
  • More than 70 per cent of smartphone consumers use their device to research information about products and services, but only one in two use it to order and purchase goods
  • There exists a gender gap in mobile internet usage in several markets. In India, for example, female mobile phone owners are 43 per cent less likely to use mobile internet services than males

The GMEI calculates an engagement score for each of the 56 global markets covered in the consumer survey. The top ten countries based on this score are:

Rank   Country   Score
1 South Korea 5.0
2 Qatar 5.0
3 USA 4.7
4 Saudi Arabia 4.6
5 Denmark 4.5
6 Finland 4.5
7 Australia 4.5
8 Spain 4.4
9 Sweden 4.4
10 Romania 4.3


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