3/4 of Mobile Phones Are In Developing Markets; Growth to Skyrocket

According to Upstream, with YouGov and Vanson Bourne, 7 billion global mobile users are the new, coveted prime audience that companies everywhere are trying to reach. However, while the average person receives 750 marketing messages annually, the average person also ignores them all. But, says the report, reaching mobile users is not the real challenge; converting them into paying customers is what really matters.

Of the world's six billion mobile phones, more than three quarters are located in the developing world, says the report. Despite the high level of phone usage in developing markets, growth is set to rocket, particularly in the smartphone markets. Analyst firm Ovum expects that there will be 1.6 billion new mobile connections across the world by 2017, with Africa identified as the fastest growing region. Additionally, according to the GSMA, sub-Saharan Africa is expected to add 175 million new mobile users just in the coming three years. These predictions make the emerging markets all the more appealing for all mobile players.

The importance of mobile devices to consumers is reflected in the Upstream Emerging Markets Mobile Attitudes report where mobile is identified as the most used personal device for 47% of consumers. Mobile use surpassed the time spent on laptops. 

Personally Owned Device Used Most Frequently


% of Usersmobi

Mobile phone




Desktop PC




Source: Upstream, June 2013

Almost half of the respondents would be willing to pay between $100 and $300 for a phone, demonstrating that people in these markets are prepared to make significant investments in mobile devices. With mobile devices often regarded as a status symbol, a sizeable 15% of consumers stated they would be prepared to spend $450+ for a new phone. Respondents within this bracket are looking to purchase the highest end smartphones with maximum features and functionality.

However, it is important to note that 29% of consumers would not spend more than $100 dollars, showing that cost is still an important consideration for a large number of consumers.

While the biggest players in the West are also some of the most coveted brands in developing regions, the order of the front runners is notably different in the emerging markets. The results found that the popularity of Apple in the West is lost in emerging markets. In fact, on the wish list of handsets consumers would like to own in emerging markets, those developed by Apple (21%) are typically the third most sought after. The research uncovers Samsung as victorious in these regions, a brand favored by almost a third of consumers (32%). Nokia secures second place (22%), which in part can be attributed to the investment it has made in emerging markets and its lower cost handsets.

Country Brand Preference Snapshot


  • Samsung (35%)
  • Nokia (23%)
  • Apple (19%)


  • Samsung (38%)
  • Nokia (20%)
  • Apple (19%)


  • Nokia (37%)
  • Blackberry (21%)
  • Apple (15%)

Saudi Arabia:

  • Samsung (42%)
  • Apple (31%)
  • Nokia (8%),

As mobile operators and other dominant mobile players attempt to monetize their existing and new mobile user base, mobile advertising will play an increasingly important role going forward, says the report. While mobile advertising has been a booming trend in Western markets, Ad Age projects that in 2014 overall advertising spend in emerging markets (including mobile) will account for one third of global spending, overtaking the U.S., currently the world’s biggest market. The BRIC nations alone (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) will account for almost half of global ad spend by 2017, says the report.

In emerging markets there are real opportunities to connect with consumers, thanks to a growing middle class who are facilitating the growth in consumer spending on goods and services. While making an impact with Western consumers, who are inundated with marketing messages across all digital devices, is proving increasingly difficult for brands and advertisers, this this report says that emerging markets have not yet reached marketing saturation.

According to the study, consumers in emerging markets are much more open to receiving promotional material over their mobile device, partially explained by the fact that mobile is often the only way consumers can receive vouchers, offers and hear about new products and services. The findings of the study reveal that emerging market consumers are very open to mobile advertising, with 68% saying that they are happy to receive promotions from brands on a weekly basis. One in five are happy to receive advertising daily, and up to 7% of consumers would be open to receiving promotional material more than once a day.

When identifying the most effective forms of mobile advertising, SMS marketing is identified as the most welcomed format across emerging markets, with 51% wanting to receive promotional messages in this way. An additional 26% would like to receive SMS promotions as long as the message is relevant to their location, while 19% would like to receive SMS marketing messages when they receive ‘top-up’ credit confirmations.

The research shows that email marketing is also set for success in these markets, with 43% of emerging market consumers happy to receive promotions in this way. There is little appetite for mobile pop up ads in apps, selected by just 8% of consumers, although one in ten did select banner adverts in mobile apps. 12% stated they would be happy to receive phone calls regarding promotions, however 6% also said they never want to receive marketing messages via their mobile devices.

Find more information about Upstream here.


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