More than half (56%) of the global population will have smartphones by the end of this year, according to ZenithOptimedia's (ZO) annual New Media Forecast, which covers digital marketing behaviors in 47 countries. There’s even one country -- Singapore -- where smartphone penetration will reach 91%. Worldwide, smartphone penetration is increasing from 41.6% in 2013 to an expected 66.5% by 2018.
Growth varies by country. Singapore is the global leader, partly due to the government's push for universal WiFi. Spain and Ireland follow close behind with 86.7% and 83%, respectively. The other top ten markets include South Korea, Norway, Japan, Austria, Sweden, the Netherlands and Hong Kong. However, Switzerland, Australia and Denmark are projected to bump Japan, Sweden, and the Netherlands to enter the top ten by 2018.
“The rapid spread of mobile technology is transforming media consumption and marketing communication across the world,” says Jonathan Barnard, ZenithOptimedia’s head of forecasting. “For more and more people, their smartphone or tablet is the first place they look for information or entertainment. Marketers need a mobile-first approach to communicate with these people effectively.”
Although tablet usage remains small compared to smartphones, this category is also growing in popularity -- as penetration has nearly tripled from 5.3% in 2012 to 14.8% in 2014. ZO predicts tablet usage will reach 19.8% in 2018.
Asia and Europe are leaders in tablet adoption with 77% of Hong Kong residents using tablets in 2015, which is expected to increase to 91% in 2018. Singapore is second-ranked for tablet penetration, with 64% in 2014 and 82% expected in 2018, while the Netherlands takes third place in both years, with table penetration growing from 58.3% in 2014 to 75% in 2018.
Not all technologies are experiencing continued growth. Global Internet usage is flat-lining, with 1.9 billion Internet users projected at the end of 2015, which represents about 60% of all Internet users across the world. Although this is 3.9% more than the percentage at the end of last year, the annual rate of growth has fallen from 7.9% in 2011, when there were 1.5 billion Internet users in these markets, and ZO expects this statistic to drop to 2.5% in 2018, when there will be 2.0 billion users.
“Overall Internet access is slowing down simply because almost everyone who wants Internet access now has it," says Barnard. "There remains a small but hard core of -- mainly older -- people who see no value in the Internet, but their numbers are slowly falling because, frankly, they are dying off."
The report illustrates how consumers across the world are increasingly becoming plugged-in and wired, and that their preferred platform for doing so has shifted. “I would say that the key takeaway for advertisers is that if they’re not on mobile, they are missing out on one of the main channels that most of the population uses to inform and entertain themselves," says Barnard.