To Which Countries Are Smartphones Penetrating the Most and Why?

Written by Polona Golob

January 19, 2017

The ongoing digital globalization of ecommerce and social media has resulted in an ever-increasing demand for people to stay connected at all time. As a result, smartphones have become an integral part of everyday life — but just how ubiquitous are they? 

The Pew Research Center has conducted an extensive study on global smartphone penetration and internet usage, with in-depth data on smartphone ownership and penetration by country

At GFluence, we decided to take a closer look at the smartphone usage statistics by country for the 10 countries in which smartphones are most popular. We delved into the country-specific cultural, social and economic trends behind the data to develop a comprehensive understanding of the ways in which people are using their smartphones. These top countries are spread across the world, all featuring their own languages and levels of economic development.

Take a look at our map and chart to see for yourself where smartphones have become the most popular:

Source: GFluence

Emerging Economies Call For Bigger Smartphone Usage

Malaysia and Chile, two of the world’s fastest-rising smartphone markets, both boast higher smartphone penetration than Germany. Compared to Germany’s 60 percent, smartphone penetration in Malaysia and Chile has blossomed to an impressive 65 percent. The two countries have been undergoing rapid economic growth, and as telecommunication infrastructure improves, the resulting increases in mobile coverage have sparked a surge in smartphone use. Together, these factors are major contributors to the growing number of smartphone users in the world.

The burgeoning craze over social media and digital entertainment in Malaysia has caused serious concerns about addiction and obsession with smartphones. Malaysia smartphone user statistics reveal that this preoccupation with mobile devices has affected users of all ages,both young and old. While sales have skyrocketed, the concept of smartphone addiction in Malaysia can cast such figures in a rather negative light.

According to the PRC’s study, 85 percent of internet users in Chile use social media, ranking the country at seventh place in the global community. As Chile is seriously investing in telecommunications to improve mobile data coverage, many Chileans without broadband internet can get their social media fix via smartphone instead.

Chile is now one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America, and as such, the rapid spread of smartphone use is quite understandable. It’s no wonder that Chile’s and Malaysia’s smartphone penetration rates have experienced such booms in recent years.

South Korea: The Undisputed Smartphone Leader

If smartphone addiction is an emerging trend in Malaysia, it is already a recognized disease in South Korea. The government and local authorities have already had to take various measures to secure the safety of drivers and pedestrians against smartphone addicts. The streets of Seoul are peppered with cautionary signs warning pedestrians to put their phones away when crossing the street.


A group of South Korean psychologists tried to identify the trends and factors behind the rise of these so-called “Smartphone Zombies”. In their research, they learned that women in South Korea are more likely to use their smartphones for social media than men. Conversely, the country’s men were more inclined to turn to their smartphones for entertainment and leisure, perhaps as a result of South Korea’s grueling working hours. Another major contributor to the country’s high smartphone ownership is the allure of messaging and gaming addiction, especially among teenagers. The South Korean app KakaoTalk is a mainstay for 99.2 percent of messaging app users — 88.3 percent of all smartphone owners in the country.

Let’s not forget that two of the world’s most recognized smartphone brands are from South Korea — Samsung and LG. Blame it on national pride or supporting the local economy, but it’s true that people in many countries are compelled to trust and support their national brands. South Koreans are constantly bombarded by smartphone novelties, advertisements and price deals. Before its release, the Galaxy S8 garnered more than one million pre-orders from within the country.

Smartphones provide security in Israel

While many parents the world over are faced with exhausting arguments over when their children should be allowed a first smartphone, this is not the case in Israel. Due to the country’s unstable security situation, parents are more at ease knowing their child has a smartphone and can be reached through multiple channels of communication at any time.

The Israeli app Red Alert was created for precisely this reason. Developed by an Israeli teenager, Red Alert sends a text alert to a mobile device whenever air-raid sirens are activated anywhere in Israel. Each alert also states the location of the warnings.

It’s no surprise that Israelis are also obsessed with remaining abreast of news updates. Whether for security reasons, world news, or even to learn what a friend or relative is doing after school, Israelis are driven to stay well informed at all times.

The Better the Economy, the Better the Connection

Which country boasts the largest smartphone market? As you might naturally assume, there is a strong connection between national wealth and smartphone ownership. In developed economies, where purchasing power is high and retail competition is strong, smartphone prices are lower than in developing countries. This is evident from the chart below, which shows smartphone ownership by country.


Companies both big and small know that without proper social media coverage, it’s only going to get harder to attract new customers. Twitter is king when it comes to news consumption, with Facebook filling a valuable niche when it comes to event planning a scheduling. These factors combined are just a few of a reasons why the world has seen such a staggering rise of interdependence between people and smartphones.

Have you thought about adapting your marketing strategy for smartphone users? With mobile internet search surpassing desktop search, it’s time you did. We’re ready help you get started – contact us today!

Featured image source:

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