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Smartphone ownership 66% by 2018

Findings from the New Media Forecasts report from ZenithOptimedia suggest that 66.5 per cent of individuals in key digital markets will have a smartphone by the end of 2018. In 47 leading countries, smartphone penetration rose from 41.6 per cent in 2013 to 49.5 per cent in 2014, and it will reach 55.7 per cent this year.

This fourth edition of ZenithOptimedia’s annual New Media Forecasts report provides snapshots of the current state of digital marketing in 47 countries, covering topics such as Internet access, media consumption and online behaviour, and forecasts the rise of Internet connections and smartphone and tablet technology.

Asia Pacific and Western Europe lead smartphone and tablet adoption

Smartphone adoption is highest in Asia Pacific and Western Europe, and ZenithOptimedia expects these regions to maintain their lead for the next few years. Of the 47 markets studied, Singapore has the highest level of smartphone penetration, at 89.0 per cent at the end of 2014, and ZenithOptimedia thinks this will leap to 97.0 per cent by 2018 as the government pushes ahead with its plan for universal Wi-Fi access. Spain and Ireland follow close behind, with 86.7 per cent and 83.0 per cent penetration in 2014 respectively. The other top ten markets are also all in Asia Pacific and Western Europe: South Korea, Norway, Japan, Austria, Sweden, the Netherlands and Hong Kong. Switzerland, Australia and Denmark are predicted to enter the top ten by 2018, at the expense of Japan, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Tablets are also growing in popularity: across the 47 countries, penetration rose from 5.3 per cent in 2012 to 14.8 per cent in 2014, and ZenithOptimedia forecasts it to reach 19.8 per cent in 2018. Hong Kong tops the ranking of highest-penetration markets for tablets, with 77 per cent penetration in 2015, which ZenithOptimedia expect to increase to 91 per cent in 2018. Our smartphone champion Singapore comes second for tablet penetration, with 64 per cent penetration in 2014 and 82 per cent expected in 2018; the Netherlands takes third place in both years, with table penetration growing from 58.3 per cent to 75 per cent over the period.

Internet user growth  is slowing down

The growth of global Internet users is slowing down. In the 47 top markets ZenithOptimedia estimates there will be 1.9 billion Internet users at the end of 2015, representing about 60 per cent of all Internet users across the world, and 3.9 per cent more than there were at the end of last year. The annual rate of growth has fallen from 7.9 per cent in 2011, when there were 1.5 billion Internet users in these markets, and ZenithOptimedia expects it to drop to 2.5 per cent in 2018, when there will be 2.0 billion users.

The top market for Internet penetration is South Korea, where access is universal and has been since 2011. Close behind, ZenithOptimedia finds a clutch of northern European markets such as Denmark (98 per cent penetration in 2014) and the Netherlands (96.7 per cent), which have relatively small and tech-savvy populations. In all, seven markets in the report enjoyed Internet penetration above 90 per cent by the end of 2014: South Korea, Denmark and the Netherlands, plus Norway, Switzerland, Finland and Sweden.

By the end of 2018, ZenithOptimedia thinks that 15 of the 47 markets will enjoy more than 90 per cent penetration.

ZenithOptimedia forecasts South Korea to remain the top market for Internet penetration in 2018, while Argentina and Estonia enter the top ten rankings, displacing Singapore and Ireland, which in 2014 were in eighth and ninth place respectively.

“The rapid spread of mobile technology is transforming media consumption and marketing communication across the world,” said 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.”

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