Mobile phones are still basically a voice/text device for 47% of users: GSMA index

Credit: Peter Gudella / Shutterstock, Inc.

Almost half of mobile phone users worldwide still only use their devices to make voice calls and send SMS, according to a new consumer index from GSMA Intelligence that measures mobile engagement.

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. The index is based on inputs from the 2016 GSMA Intelligence consumer survey, which surveyed mobile users across 56 global markets representing 80% of the world’s population.

The GMEI classifies mobile user engagement into four tiers:

  • Aficionados (the most engaged)
  • Pragmatists
  • Networkers
  • 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% of adult mobile phone owners in 2016. However, this segment is forecast to shrink to 29% of the total by 2030 as users across the developing world become more engaged due to advances in mobile innovation, affordability and availability.

“In an era of mobile being near ubiquitous around the world and at the center 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 behaviors 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.”

Some insights from the inaugural GMEI report:

  • 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% 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 programs on their device
  • More than 70% 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% less likely to use mobile internet services than males

The GMEI also 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 Score1
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

The score is based on responses to the 2016 GSMA Intelligence global consumer survey. A country score of zero would mean that consumers never use their mobile phones for any of the 29 mobile use cases covered in the survey. A country score of 10 would mean that consumers engage in each of the 29 mobile use cases every day.

The GMEI study will be updated on an annual basis. It’s available for download here.

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