— Qatar Today (@QatarToday) February 12, 2014
By Damian Radcliffe
February sees the annual Mobile World Congress take place in Barcelona. This huge four-day event – last year’s conference was attended by 72,000 people including over 4,000 CEOs – offers a valuable insight into the latest mobile innovations and trends, from the latest handsets to new apps and announcements from many of the industry’s biggest players (2014’s headline speaker is Facebook CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg).
With mobile already proving to be a huge catalyst for changes in the way we communicate and consume content, we can expect this momentum to be sustained in 2014. Qatar Today will be giving you updates on our social media from the conference followed by an in-depth report in our next issue.
Hotly-tipped developments for the next 12 months include curved and flexible mobile screens, bigger iPhones (the phablet is already pretty popular in parts of the Middle East, and the growth of China as a major 4G market, with China Mobile alone planning to sell about 100 million 4G smartphones in 2014.
Ahead of these developments – and any announcements to come out of the latest Mobile World Congress – here are fourteen mobile stories and data points that caught my eye over the past couple of months.
Seven developments from the Middle East
1. Of the 56 million active users on Facebook in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), 28 million log on daily, with 15 million doing so via a mobile device. Over the course of a month that figure increases to 33 million.
2. At the end of Q3 2013 there were 354 million mobile subscriptions in MENA, according to research from Ericsson. Of the 6 million new mobile subscriptions in MENA in Q3 2013, 4 million of these new connections were in Egypt.
3. Nearly 75% of people in the UAE own a smartphone: data compiled by online statistics portal Statista show that the UAE enjoys the highest level of smartphone penetration in the world, just ahead of South Korea. Saudi Arabia comes third; 72.8% of Saudi’s population owns a smartphone.
4. In MENA two phones in five are smartphones, reports market research company IDC, with 45.2% of all phones in the region being produced by Nokia.
5. Thirty-seven precent of consumers in the UAE use the mobile web for 6+ hours a day, software solutions company Netbiscuits has found.
6. Mobile is an increasingly important means for people in the Middle East and Africa to get online. Analysys Mason’s survey of mobile Internet users in 2012-2013 found that “87% of surveyed mobile Internet users use a mobile phone as the main means to connect to the Internet…”
7. Multinational knowledge company Informa predicts that sales of tablets in the region are expected to increase almost fivefold in the next four years, from 6.5 million in 2012 to 32.1 million in 2016.
1. By 2017 there will be more phones on the planet than people. That’s just one of the many memorable stats from Benedict Evans’ memorably-entitled presentation “Mobile Is Eating The World”. He outlines some fundamental differences in the scale and usage of the PC and mobile industries. For example, 1.7 billion phones were sold in 2012 compared with 350 million PCs.
2. Separately, Ericsson has stated that there will be 9.3 billion mobile subscriptions by 2019, of which 60% will be smartphones.
3. Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung are the driving forces behind Internet.org, a global partnership that will focus on mobile to bring the Internet to those not yet online. Their efforts will include trying to reduce the data needed by apps in a bid to make the mobile Internet more affordable. Will Zuckerberg say more about this development in Barcelona?
4. The number of US children aged 0-8 who use mobile devices has nearly doubled since 2011 to 72% (up from 38%), reports the US-based organisation Common Sense Media. In fact the same research notes that 38% of under-2s have now used a mobile device, the same number as under-8s only two years ago.
5. Kenyan teens use their mobiles as the primary means to get online, according to a report by UNICEF. As a result, young people in Kenya don’t differentiate between mobile and Internet use, instead viewing it as an integrated digital experience. The ability to meet new people, access entertainment-related content and learn about new things of interest were all key drivers to getting online.
6. Fifty-six per cent of all UK adults claim to have “media stacked” while watching television – a term refers to the practice of using tech devices such as their phone or tablet to engage in activity unrelated to what they are watching. Internet browsing and communicating with others, e.g. by calls, e-mail or text, were the most popular activities undertaken while also watching TV; watching or listening to other content at the same time was the least popular.
7. Video calling via mobile has tripled in the USA since 2011. Data from the Pew Research Centre shows how over the past four years phone owners have become increasingly likely to use their mobile for activities such as getting directions, listening to music or video calling.
Next month we will say more about the implications of these developments for employers, especially amongst younger members of the workforce. In the meantime, if you’ve seen any other mobile developments that caught your eye don’t forget to write to Qatar Today or tell us via our various social media channels.