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7.1 Billion People, 7.1 Billion Mobile Phone Accounts Activated 197

Posted by timothy
from the borrowing-the-mcdonalds-model dept.
Freshly Exhumed (105597) writes "Tomi Ahonen's newly released 2014 Almanac reveals such current mobile phone industry data gems as: 'The mobile subscription rate is at or very very nearly at 100%. For 7.1 Billion people alive that means 7.1 Billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide.' Compared with other tech industries, he says: 'Take every type of PC, including desktops, laptops, netbooks and tablet PCs and add them together. What do we have? 1.5 Billion in use worldwide. Mobile is nearly 5 times larger. Televisions? Sure. We are now at 2 Billion TV sets in use globally. But mobile has 3.5 times users.' Which mobile phone OS is the leader? ''Android has now utterly won the smartphone platform war with over 80% of new sales. Apple's iPhone has peaked and is in gradual decline at about 15% with the remnant few percent split among Windows, Blackberry and miscellaneous others.'"
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7.1 Billion People, 7.1 Billion Mobile Phone Accounts Activated

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  • Sanity check (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Russ1642 (1087959) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @10:41AM (#46990055)

    Usually when you get a number like this you do a sanity check to make sure it's reasonable. This is so plainly obviously a BS number.

    • Re:Sanity check (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bacon Bits (926911) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @10:46AM (#46990125)

      These are telecommunications companies. Sanity doesn't figure in to their business plan.

      • These are telecommunications companies. Sanity doesn't figure in to their business plan.

        You have clearly never worked for an investment bank.

      • Re:Sanity check (Score:5, Informative)

        by schnell (163007) <meNO@SPAMschnell.net> on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @11:06AM (#46990351) Homepage

        It's got nothing to do with that. As the GP said, this is a total BS interpretation of the statistic. In wireless telco parlance, a "subscriber" is just an active SIM, not a person. So the total # of "subscribers" among mobile systems includes not just cellular phones but also cellular wireless enabled laptops/tablets/Kindles; all the cars out there with OnStar or something similar; every truck or car with a wireless fleet tracker; every cargo container or physical asset that has a wireless location/anti-theft tracker; every FedEx driver who has a cellular-enabled signature capture reader; every utility meter or security camera with a cellular data link... the list goes on and on. "7.1 billion" is probably more like 1/2 people with phones and 1/2 "things" with cellular connections.

        • by Russ1642 (1087959)

          The richest countries would have to have ten devices per person ON AVERAGE to make up for the large portion of the population that doesn't have any, let alone clean toilets. I just don't see how that's the case.

          • Re:Sanity check (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Ralph Wiggam (22354) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @12:30PM (#46991357) Homepage

            Lots of people without indoor toilets now have mobile phones.

            • by Andrewkov (140579)

              And some of those mobile phones end up in toilets .. and the user says the phone stopped working and possibly has "water damage", while not mentioning that whole toilet incident...

              Not that I'm speaking from experience..

          • by MNNorske (2651341)
            I personally account for:
            - One person cell phone
            - One work issued cell phone
            - One medical device that has a cellular connection to a service provider
            - One security system that has a mobile module in it
            - Two kindles, one 2nd generation, and one DX both of which connect via cellular

            So right there I account for six "subscriptions."
        • by Carrot007 (37198)

          Indeed, they probably count all the smart electric meters out there too!

          • by Bigbutt (65939)

            And security systems. In the last house the security company had a cell phone mounted in the panel.

            [John]

        • Not a BS number (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mcrbids (148650) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @12:09PM (#46991077) Journal

          That there are as many active mobile devices as there are people doesn't mean that everybody has a mobile device. And the reality is that mobile devices actually are ubiquitous, and the 7.1 billion number understates their ubiquity, since many devices are wifi only.

          I type this on my Linux laptop that I use for work, but outside of some gaming, mobile devices have taken the crown for personal use. Mostly, I browse on my smart phone. I schedule on my smart phone. I email on my smart phone. My "TV" is actually a Google TV Stick running android. I frequently take a tablet with me when I travel, just so I can plug the hotel room HDMI into it and watch what I want, rather than "what's on".

          Mobile devices are everywhere, and still growing fast, and have completely up-ended the computer marketplace. This trend will continue and even if you knock the number in half, it still stomps the every loving *!@#$* out of the classical desktop "computer".

          • by mbone (558574)

            I type this on my Linux laptop that I use for work, but outside of some gaming, mobile devices have taken the crown for personal use. Mostly, I browse on my smart phone. I schedule on my smart phone. I email on my smart phone. My "TV" is actually a Google TV Stick running android. I frequently take a tablet with me when I travel, just so I can plug the hotel room HDMI into it and watch what I want, rather than "what's on".

            It's funny, but I dislike using my phone for basically all of those things, and so I don't. IMHO, typing on a smart phone is much like trying to assemble Christmas toys while drunk; not pleasurable, and noteworthy mainly for the occasional disaster it causes.

            On the other hand, if you go to places like Mumbai or Beijing, everyone appears to have a cell phone, and appears to use it constantly, so I can believe the overall number (well, to within a factor of 2 or so for hype inflation).

        • It's got nothing to do with that. As the GP said, this is a total BS interpretation of the statistic. In wireless telco parlance, a "subscriber" is just an active SIM, not a person. So the total # of "subscribers" among mobile systems includes not just cellular phones but also cellular wireless enabled laptops/tablets/Kindles; all the cars out there with OnStar or something similar; every truck or car with a wireless fleet tracker; every cargo container or physical asset that has a wireless location/anti-theft tracker; every FedEx driver who has a cellular-enabled signature capture reader; every utility meter or security camera with a cellular data link... the list goes on and on. "7.1 billion" is probably more like 1/2 people with phones and 1/2 "things" with cellular connections.

          This list likely includes law enforcement trackers, military devices (devices that are not using MIL sats), and whatever the security agencies are using these days. Also, don't forget mifi devices, airplanes, and probably a ton of other crap that we just don't know about.

        • by Lennie (16154)

          I've seen articles claim there are more devices connected to cellular than people.

          So that would mean it's less than half.

        • That was my thought as well.

          I'm personally "responsible" for a 500% skewing of the statistic.

          1. work phone
          2. ipad
          3. android tablet
          4. WiFi Hotspot
          5. personal phone
        • But who cares when you're trying to compare network sizes?

          They're pointing out that they have the power to shut off or control a large number of devices. Imagine if the GSM LTE protocol was worked such that anything on the network had to be capable of showing an ad from one of the telco's choosings?

          It might even work in their favor to be able to target someone repeatedly. It's not about how many eyeballs you get to it's how targeted can you make your ad to the eyeball it does get.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      You honestly think telcos don't know how many subscribers they have? Everybody I know from age 10 and up has one and personally I've got two phones, one for home and one for work. In my case it's because my employer's policy is very strict on mixing work related records with random apps that could compromise the phone. So does a friend of mine so he can hand the "work phone" to someone else when he's away, because that's the number many people call. It doesn't take many of us to add up to >100% of the po

      • by sjbe (173966)

        You honestly think telcos don't know how many subscribers they have?

        I think they have strong incentives to inflate the number of subscribers they actually have to look good for their investors. One cell phone for every man, woman and child on the planet? Yeah, I'm a little dubious. There are a LOT of young people, poor people and old people who do not have cell phones.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Em Adespoton (792954)

        You honestly think telcos don't know how many subscribers they have? Everybody I know from age 10 and up has one and personally I've got two phones, one for home and one for work. In my case it's because my employer's policy is very strict on mixing work related records with random apps that could compromise the phone. So does a friend of mine so he can hand the "work phone" to someone else when he's away, because that's the number many people call. It doesn't take many of us to add up to >100% of the population.

        I think telcos know how many subscribers they have -- I also think telcos don't know how many telcos there are globally. Among other things I think, I think this is likely the number of SIM cards produced to date, not active subscribers, and I think that people who work for telcos probably have a disproportionately large number of subscriptions.

        I really have no problem with the stats on phone subscriptions, even though I'm pretty sure it's a projection that treats all parts of the world equal. However, th

      • by Shadow99_1 (86250)

        See this depends highly on where you live. No one in my extended family gives cell phones to kids until they can buy one themselves and my older relatives my parents age often don't have cell phones at all and the ones that do certainly don't own smart phones.

      • I honestly think they don't know how many individual humans are their customers.

        As has been pointed out by others, "subscriber" in telecom parlance refers to the device, not the person who owns it. Ergo, if you have a work phone, personal phone, and one of those wireless hotspot devices, you count as 3 subscribers.

        • I honestly think they don't know how many individual humans are their customers.

          As has been pointed out by others, "subscriber" in telecom parlance refers to the device, not the person who owns it. Ergo, if you have a work phone, personal phone, and one of those wireless hotspot devices, you count as 3 subscribers.

          Add a car with 911 service and a Kindle and you are up to 5 pretty quickly.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      it is reasonable.

      what you FAIL and maybe article writer fails in is quite simply that many people have many subs to their name.

      and then there's all the non personal mobile phone subscriptions( remember this internet of things hype stuff?). you know, billboards, hand dryers etc which have sims and connect to the net.

    • by MarkRose (820682) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @11:06AM (#46990353) Homepage

      Didn't you mean to say.... a phony number?

    • by Punto (100573)

      I have 3 mobile subscriptions and 0 TVs, si those numbers sound legit to me.

    • Speaking of sanity check, more people have cell phones than access to clean toilets [unicef.org]. That, indeed, is crazy.

      • Speaking of sanity check, more people have cell phones than access to clean toilets. That, indeed, is crazy.

        But understandable. Building out and maintaining a wireless phone infrastructure is much easier and cheaper than doing so for a sewer system.

    • Re:Sanity check (Score:5, Informative)

      by coolsteve (1582557) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @11:20AM (#46990513)
      From the article:

      MOBILE SUBCRIBERS END OF 2013
      Total active mobile subscriptions or accounts -7.1B (was 6.7B in 2011, growth 6%)
      Unique mobile users - 4.5 B (was 4.3B in 2011, growth 5%)
      Actual mobile phones in use - 5.4 B (was 5.2B in 2011, growth 4%)

      Not quite sure what that means... There are more active subscriptions than actual phones in use? Who is paying for a subscription without having a phone attached?
      • Who is paying for a subscription without having a phone attached?

        The first thing that came to mind was someone with a device that uses only the data connection.

      • In Europe, it's common for people who travel frequently abroad to have a sim for a local provider in each country they visit.

        On some bits of the south coast of England, some people get better (or only) reception from France. They have a sim for France which they put in their phone when they're at home and a UK sim for when they're out to avoid accidental roaming charges when at home.

      • Dual-sim phones are common in most of the world. I have Sims for countries I am not actually in. One of them is currently on loan to someone in its native country.
      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        Not quite sure what that means... There are more active subscriptions than actual phones in use? Who is paying for a subscription without having a phone attached?

        In the developing world, it's very common for calling to be cheap in-network and expensive if you call someone on a different cellular provider.
        The end result is everyone has two phones or dual sim phones.
        Even triple and quad sim phones have been on the market for a while now.

        It's not something that internationally known manufacturers were at all interested in,
        but companies like Motorola, HTC, Samsung and Nokia have finally joined the Chinese in manufacturing them.

    • Lots of people I know have at least two phones. Heck, I personally have a "work phone" and a "personal phone". My company is a lot less worried about their data mixing with other stuff, especially when combined with additional sandboxing mechanisms like GOOD. It helps me, too. If some organizational data gets out, my employer can erase the phone without me worrying that they'll erase my stuff. Also, I'm a lot freer to install apps than I would be if my company controlled what could be installed on the

    • by dwheeler (321049)

      To be fair, the article itself does state that the 7.1B figure does not represent unique users or handsets in use. Instead, it says that "The number of unique users is now 4.5 Billion or 63% of all humans alive are actually users of mobile phones. The remaining 2.6 Billion accounts are second or third accounts for the same user... So 20% of us, one in five who has a mobile subscription or account, actually walks around with two phones (and at least two accounts)."

    • It might actually be reasonable. There are a number of businesses out there that provide blackberries or other "work" cell phones. They could also be throwing in assorted iPads and other tablets, since they too probably have some 3g/4g plan associated with them. While I too doubt that it's 1 for 1, there are some areas where it might be 2 or 3 devices for one person. Who knows whether or not those folks make up for those ends of the world without cell towers.

    • The number is reasonable. The reasoning behind it is prime grade A BS, though.

      I'd be interested just how many of these subscriptions are not to a human but to a machine. Computers that call their admins when they lose power. Surveillance systems that alert police or owner. And in many instances there's more than one just as a failover necessity. I dare say those alone will dwarf the "human" subscribers.

      And I'm pretty sure with a bit of thinking one can come up with many other subscriptions that "belong" to

    • The biggest problem with this is the number of people with multiple phones. I know many people who have their personal phones as well as phones from their employer for work.
    • How so? It doesn't meant everyone has a phone. Many people have multiple phones if only because they have a work one. Poor nations have been into mobiles for sometime due to a lack of landlines and it just being easier to deploy and not every nation gouges its customers like the US.

      It's also why investors are kind dumb to keep expecting growth from mobiles. They are certainly in a state where it's far more realistic to expect them to maintain their position rather than grow especially with Android.
    • We have 3 mobile phones in our house, and only 2 adults, though, if we didn't also have 2 kids, we might not feel the need for a "backup" phone.

    • by Richy_T (111409)

      Stats skewed by Saul Goodman and Michael Westen.

    • Ya, that is what I was thinking.
      There is like 4 billion people in villages without power, let alone currency, in the world. They obviously do not have mobile phones.
      Let alone babies, who since they cannot speak obviously do not own a mobile phone (I doubt that the ownership of mobile phones for the 1-12 demographic is very high at all) [and this is a very significant portion of the population].

      I have no idea how many phones are currently activated, but I know the user base cannot be much over 50% of the cur

  • What this means (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Presto Vivace (882157) <marshall@prestovivace.biz> on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @10:42AM (#46990065) Homepage Journal
    for my profession (public relations) is that if you don't have a mobile strategy, you don't have a communications strategy at all.
  • There are obviously huge numbers of poor and destitute that have no access to luxuries like mobile phones. Wealthier people are walking around with multiple mobile subscriptions. Either by work/personal accounts, or accounts for tablets and modems, or whatever. So I wonder how far past 100% they will be able to go? 150%? 200 even? It's a good time to be Samsung. Also hard to believe that HTC and Nokia are in so much trouble. Even a small part of 7 billion is a lot of business.

    • this dial goes up to 11

    • by HBI (604924)

      Well, making shitty phones - either because the OS sucks (Windows Phone) or the hardware is flaky (HTC - the one HTC phone I owned was not particularly good) doesn't make it extremely likely that people are going to buy your phones.

    • by RDW (41497)

      In TFA, they claim 4.5 billion unique users, and that this number has only gone up by 5% since 2011.

    • There are obviously huge numbers of poor and destitute that have no access to luxuries like mobile phones. Wealthier people are walking around with multiple mobile subscriptions. Either by work/personal accounts, or accounts for tablets and modems, or whatever. So I wonder how far past 100% they will be able to go? 150%? 200 even? It's a good time to be Samsung. Also hard to believe that HTC and Nokia are in so much trouble. Even a small part of 7 billion is a lot of business.

      Interestingly enough, mobile phones aren't the luxury in the developing world we might think them to be, considering that more people have phones than have electricity*. They're used to replace obvious things, like wired communications, and less obvious services, like banking.

      *WTF, right? How do you charge your phone? [chargeall.com]

      • by Verdatum (1257828) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @11:20AM (#46990515)
        I worked developing mobile telecom equipment for a company that mostly sells to undeveloped countries. This is sort of true in that undeveloped nations often don't have a land-line network in place, and it is far easier to set up a wireless network. So people are more likely to have a mobile phone than a stationary phone. However, impoverished people still don't have phones. It ends up being interesting because the standard Western usage models for phones don't work out at all. We can't calculate the number of available channels needed per subscriber the same way. Many mobile phones in these areas will be involved in active calls nearly 24 hours a day. The reason why is that people will buy a phone and account, and then hire people in shifts to stand on the street corner shouting out that they've got a phone. They then let people make calls for a markup.
        • people will buy a phone and account, and then hire people in shifts to stand on the street corner shouting out that they've got a phone. They then let people make calls for a markup.

          Is there something that keeps people from just installing a pay phone that connects to the cell network?

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      There are obviously huge numbers of poor and destitute that have no access to luxuries like mobile phones. Wealthier people are walking around with multiple mobile subscriptions. Either by work/personal accounts, or accounts for tablets and modems, or whatever. So I wonder how far past 100% they will be able to go? 150%? 200 even? It's a good time to be Samsung. Also hard to believe that HTC and Nokia are in so much trouble. Even a small part of 7 billion is a lot of business.

      Actually, the poor and destitut

      • It's more of a quirk that in North America, we're quite reluctant to carry more than one phone. Everyone else I've seen has no problem with 2 or more phones at the same time.

        I wonder how much of this quirk arises from the incumbent carriers' established billing practices, such as a $35 per month minimum charge to keep service on an Android phone (source: virginmobileusa.com). Want cellular voice and only Wi-Fi data? Too bad [slashdot.org].

    • by Punto (100573)

      Ironically (not really but let's use that word) phones with multiple sim card slots are popular in 3td world countries. They're talking about active sim cards, not phones.

  • For the US Supreme Court to decide that each individually US activated device is a person AND can contribute to campaign finance.

  • by sunking2 (521698)
    Just means we have a lot of meth dealers and people cheating on their spouses.
    • by Nukenbar (215420)

      I'm actually surprised you don't see more cell phones that allow for 2+ lines/sim cards.

      • I'm not surprised, given the proliferation of plans with "unlimited nationwide talk and text" in Slashdot's home country. It costs $X per month to have one active line and $2*X per month to have two active lines, possibly slightly less if they're on one bill.
  • by swb (14022) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @11:09AM (#46990381)

    You don't need to be a Kreskin to predict Apple's future. The hand writing is on the wall: Apple faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for Apple because Apple is dying. Things are looking very bad for Apple. As many of us are already aware, Apple continues to lose market share. Red ink flows like a river of blood.

    Now where have I heard something like this before?

    • by gman003 (1693318)

      Yeah, but it's not like they can re-hire Steve Jobs to save them this time.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BoRegardless (721219)

      Android is taking over but taking over what? The Yugos & Fiats of the phone world. And Android is, well, fragmented into a huge number of pieces and continuing to fragment & suffer a huge amount of malware-security & upgradability issues. The question is who will take over Android and turn it into a long term stable, safe platform is it Tizen?

      Articles like this are sensationalism, pure and simple.

      Apple knows that in the end hardware & the OS is only part of the "mobile phone industry".

      • Apple and it's users said the same thing when they were getting their ass handed to them in the PC market. Microsoft is the low end crap. It's fragmented over tons of hardware. It has security issues. Apple has a vertical structure that will win in the end.

        It's hilarious for those of us who suffered through the Apple of the late 90's to read this regurgitation of talking points... well, hilarious for those of us that use Android. Two to five more years and Apple will be hitting lows like they did in
        • by PapayaSF (721268)

          Apple and it's users said the same thing when they were getting their ass handed to them in the PC market. Microsoft is the low end crap. It's fragmented over tons of hardware. It has security issues. Apple has a vertical structure that will win in the end. It's hilarious for those of us who suffered through the Apple of the late 90's to read this regurgitation of talking points...

          Dude, your comment reads like it's from the late '90s. Since then, Microsoft has been largely stagnant, their tablet and phone offerings largely a failure, the "inevitable" Windows monopoly doesn't look so inevitable any more, and OS X's share has grown. Macbooks are a very large percent of laptop sales, even to enterprise, and if you count tablets as computers, Apple's worldwide market share is about 19.5%, bigger than HP and Dell combined [appleinsider.com]. Not to mention Apple getting the lion's share of profits.

          So it loo

    • by Mojo66 (1131579)

      Android outsells iOS devices for quite some time (years?) now yet this means nothing to Apple, because a) Apple is not in the business of selling an iPhone to everyone and their dog, they're in the business of selling high-end, highly profitable devices to people who can afford them, and b) browser data shows actual internet usage numbers favour Apple at a ratio of 2:1 versus Android, so either Andriod users are too stupid to use their devices, or Android is too complicated/doesn't work, or they just get th

  • by Bomarc (306716) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @11:10AM (#46990393) Homepage
    Several bad assumptions were caught -- however one that I've not seen (yet) is the assumption that all the cell phone are "smart" (aka latest tech features form and function). I for one don't want one (if you gave it to me I'd quickly sell it before it was stolen). I also know of many people that don't want one. Many of us like our old desktop/laptop/server. I'm also not into the idea of sharing my phone when I want to watch TV.
    • In addition, "mobile subscriber" does not automatically equal a cell phone - you also have cellular enabled tablets, personal hotspot devices, portable cellular units for use with regular, analog telephones, etc. I have a good couple dozen of those in a closet, active and ready for deployment.

    • Your assumption is bad. Ftfa, they took numbers on smart separately. The summary does not make a distinction. So you are objecting to a nonexistent slight.

      The industry sold 1.8 Billion new mobile

      phones just last year alone. And more than half of the new

      sales are now smartphones (990 million were in 2013). In

      the installed base, already 31% of all mobile phones in use

      are smartphones (1.7 Billion units) and this year will sell

      about 1.2 Billion more with roughly half going to replace

      older smartphones and half

  • about half the world's population has at least one mobile device. about half have zero mobile devices. Of course, you see shithead-targeting stats like "six billion people have access to a mobile device", which means exactly nothing.

  • You can't convince me that's a real number. Would you really try to convince me that some kid in Africa who is starving to death has a cellphone? Assuming the local warlord didn't take it away from him, his parents would to sell for food. If on the other hand you want to try to convince me that there have been somewhere near that many cellphone accounts activated since the invention of the cellphone, and you want to also include pre-paid 'burner' phones that may have only been used a few times, then you mig
    • by Shados (741919)

      A -lot- of people have several devices, probably enough to make up that number. Also, its accounts activated, not active accounts. Big difference. All the people who switch phones every 6 months inflate the numbers a lot.

      But don't underestimate the amount of people who have multiple active phones, be it because they have a work black berry, or because they're tools that need the latest iphone and the latest galaxy Swhatever...at the same time....

  • I know this is /., but the article doesn't claim every inhabitant of planet earth has a mobile. The guestimates in this thread based on a sense of socioeconomic class and consumer envy are pathetic. I'm fortunate enough to have worked in remote areas of the Middle East and Asia and saw the same phenomenon of "tech-neck" among agrarian cultures as I had seen in, say, Oakland or LA-- and that was some five years ago. No technology has spread as rapidly and pervasively -- including fire and the wheel.
  • Averages are funny like that.

  • From the summary:

    Sure. We are now at 2 Billion TV sets in use globally. But mobile has 3.5 times users.

    It is clear that they are confusing devices with users. TV sets can have multiple users per device, users can have multiple mobile devices a piece. Its an interesting bit of trivia that there are as many mobile devices as people, but to make too many conclusions from this is a mistake.

  • Apple is not "declining". They are growing. (They also make most of the profit.) Android is growing fast, Apple is growing fast. Both statements can be true at the same time. Both can win. This is not a zero-sum game. Your opponent doesn't have to die so that you can live.

  • And then it was official.
    From this point on we just need to work on evening the distribution.
  • I have changed numbers in the last two years, maybe 3 or 4 times. In my last number change, I also switched operators too. My wife owns at least 4 different active numbers. My sister and my bother-in-law, between them have 4 mobile numbers... So between the 4 of us, we already own 12 numbers... It is pretty common people carrying two numbers to shave costs calling between operators, or then carrying the professional and the personal phone. So correlating numbers and customers is pretty dumb, or very conveni

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