Home News 95% of humans over 15 own a cellphone. True or false?

95% of humans over 15 own a cellphone. True or false?


It’s a remarkable statistic. There are approximately 5.3 billion humans over the age of 15 on the planet. But apparently, five billion of them have cellular phones of some description, with four billion being smartphone. So the chances of bumping into someone who doesn’t own a phone are now pretty slim.

Phones are everywhere and this is just one of them. But imagine the other 4,999,999,999 of phones. The mind truly does boggle

Closer to home, even older people who a few years ago swore they didn’t need a phone and would never buy one are now some of the most dedicated converts. But five billion, really?

I got this amazing statistic from an article by Benedict Evans, who has been writing incisively about technology for many years.

Evans interprets the implication of this near saturation by technology:

There’s an old joke that the career of an analyst progresses from Word to Excel to Powerpoint. That’s pretty much what’s happened here over the last 20 years: first we discussed what might happen (“imagine if everyone had a phone!”), then we tracked the numbers of what was happening, and finally we draw diagrams and bullet points of what that means. That’s where we are now – we try to work out what it means that almost everyone has a phone or a smartphone.

Benedict says that he not going upgrade his smartphone any more: “The next fundamental trends in tech, today, are probably machine learning, crypto and regulation. I can write about those, but it’s too early to make charts.”

Can you believe this?

Read Benedict Evans’s full article here.


  1. Hi Mike is that a typo in the first paragraph or am I reading this incorrectly and having a noob moment.

    If there is a billion cellular phones on the planet, the. Four billion of them cannot be smartphones. It’s an illogical calculation.


  2. Hi Jason,

    I agree that more and more are owning and using phones. Not so sure about our older generations, my in laws love in the sticks, and signal quality is poor. My 4G always fully loaded city signal soon disappears in our rural communities. In fact parts of the Tees valley where I often photograph have virtually no signal at all, and their internet speeds are horrendous too. My in laws keep a small mobile for emergencies only.

    The biggest technology inequality I see today is between the city rich communication zones and the poor quality rural services. This is something that needs resolving, I love my super connected lifestyle and smartphone use, but know my in laws cannot use a smartphone owing to signal issues.

    If we solved this issue. Think how many more smartphones would be in use?


    • Meanwhile in Africa people are doing all of their banking on phones. They are way ahead of Europe in this regard. For many people the whole world is a smartphone. Sit on any train or in a cafe and watch the number of people on their phones. Go to any tourist attraction and 95% of the people will be using smartphones to take photos. It must be the single most disruptive technology of all time replacing phones, watches, computers, cameras, booking offices, games machines, books, ATMs, credit cards, airline tickets etc, etc, etc. It is by far the most pervasive technology on the planet. We are only just coming to terms with this as are governments, businesses etc. ‘Game changer’ only begins to describe this and I suppose ‘we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet’.

      As for the valleys in Wales with no signal, Ofcom should be held to account for allowing this. This creates a ‘digital divide’ which would seem to run counter to their basic mandate.


      • Not only Wales William, the lakes parts of Yorkshire and Scotland lack a decent signal to support a smartphone.

        I agree ofcom should be held to account. The UK lags by miles on this front. A technology apartheid.

      • God save us from smartphone banking or online banking. I hate it.For one thing, no internet or online system is secure(whatever they tell you.) I don’t consider any country is ahead because of using online or computerized systems.i don’t enjoy the process of using screens for everything and it hasn’t improved my daily life.
        I’m glad to have a choice in these things.
        I don’t actually own a credit card and I’ve never wanted one. I get by just fine with cash, have never been in debt, and am so happy that my personal details and financial information are not available for others to steal or tamper with. But yes, I own a smart phone, which I only use for making calls on.It’s not surprising most people have one, I mean what else are you going to do?..spend one hour looking for a pay phone that actually works? By the way my cell phone which is 2 years old has about three photos on it. I always use a camera to take pictures with. Why? Again, I like using a viewfinder not a screen. I’m still mystified by how people are satisfied using a screen that they can’t see clearly because of bright sunlight to take pictures outdoors. I’ve no interest in using a phone for photography and even less interest in taking selfies! You can tell I was born in the 20th Century and not the 21st. Technology hasn’t caught up with my expectations yet.Products that don’t even have a one year shelf life ( like some phones) products that have to be constantly charged up ( remember when you could go a whole year with a button battery in a film camera? ) do not impress me much. Yes I know a phone does a lot of things so it needs a lot of battery power. Thing is, most of those things I don’t need.
        Dave, I’d be happy to spend time in those lovely parts of Yorkshire and Scotland that don’t have a signal for a smartphone.I don’t depend on one.I’m sure people living in those area spent generations living a full lives without one, right?

        • Steve, just a few words of advice- don’t go to Sweden. The Swedes are already very close to having a cashless society. I have just spent a week in Stockholm and did not spend any cash – even the smallest transactions were by credit card. Many establishments no longer accept cash. Weird I know but that’s how it is. My credit card did not work in a cafe which did not accept cash and for a few minutes I was faced with the prospect of spending a few hours washing dishes. Fortunately in the end my card did work.
          One explanation for why Sweden is leading the way on becoming a cashless society is that the prices are so high it is not practical to carry around enough cash.

          • Recently, in Den Haag, I had to use my Apple Watch to pay 70 cents to enter a public toilet. The cash slot was out of order. Here in the UK we are also moving rapidly to electronic payments. Like you in Sweden, I can do weeks without using cash.

            Since December I have used exactly £50 in cash whereas a few years ago it would have been as much in a few days. Only my Barber now operates a cash-only society and, every time I visit, I hear an altercation when some younger customer, already shorn so no return, discovers he can’t pay because he doesn’t have £10 in cash.

            I think we all understand Steve’s concerns but paying cash for everything is going to become more and more difficult. It’s a pity in many ways.

          • Wow! Very interesting John, I’m holed up in Japan, where some places still won’t easily accept credit cards, though that’s changing ( still a cash society so far with easy availability of film, and even cassette tapes ) so I can enjoy being a dinosaur for a few years more before it all goes pear shaped!
            I love that you needed a watch to use a toilet Mike..that says it all! Could have been quite uncomfortable if the verification had failed. I wonder if electronic money is a step closer to a world where we don’t need money at all. Free Leicas anyone?

        • I admire your fortitude, Steve. As regards Africa, it still does not have the same infrastructure, including banks, as Europe and North America and other parts of the ‘developed world’. People live and work often hundreds of miles away from their families who must be supported. Some years ago I was training a group of telecoms regulators from West Africa. One of them mentioned that he had a farm about 200 miles away from the capital where he worked. Recently his farm manager had asked him for $400 for seed. In times past he would have had to draw this sum from a bank and drive a 400 mile round trip to give him the sum of money. Now, all he had to do was to press a few buttons on his smartphone. He said, of course, that he was relatively well off by the standards of his country, but he had many other examples where mobile banking had been a life changer for less well off individuals and families.

          As for your ‘opt out’ strategy with smartphones etc, you are perfectly entitled to do that. In the future there may be some things that you cannot do without a mobile digital device and as for photography, by observation, over 95% of the photographers that I see are using phones rather than standalone cameras. I am not saying that they are right and you are wrong or vice versa, but what was it that Mrs Thatcher said about the markets?


          • William, thanks for the story about the guy in Africa. Glad that worked for him. I do actually think phones are the ‘now’ but in the future they might well be replaced by something else we can’t now imagine, and much sooner than we expect. No matter how popular they are at present,I bet they go the way of the iPod pretty soon. I feel a bit sad that everyone is staring at their phone all day and has to take it out of their pocket and stare at the screen as soon as they sit down on a bus or train, but there it is. I certainly do understand the convenience of using a phone for almost everything, it just doesn’t bring me any joy to do it personally. Rather like having to use a menu on a camera to take photos rather than looking through a nice big viewfinder and just feeling the controls, As for Mrs. Thatcher, I won’t comment, but oooh! It’s so tempting!

        • This made me smile – I walked from Whitby to Sandsend yesterday. 3 miles.

          In Whitby 4G purring along nicely, as I passed under the golf club all signal dropped to nada, upon arriving at sandsend 3G is as good as it got. On the way back the same saga – no idea why there is a black spot but it exists, but the service providers map reckon this area is 4G all the way.

  3. I think the scale of destructiveness from this amount of digital device use is only beginning to be comprehended by some. And the internet of things promises even more. From environmental damage in mining, production and disposal to the ubiquitous electromagnetic radiation to the exacerbation of Ebola outbreaks in the Congo over conflict for minerals to the breakdown of social skills to the large scale of surveillance. Of lesser severity, but still worrying, is that some schools are removing analogue clocks because children no longer know how to read them. We are far past what would be a sustainable and beneficial balance of digital technology in life.

  4. It’s worse than most people realize for sure. The statistics quoted by Mike at the top of the page refer to humans over the age of 15. There are an awful lot of humans under the age of 15 already addicted to cell phones too.When you think that every one of those phones is being plugged in to the grid for charging almost every night that’s an awful lot of power drain and that’s before we take into account other devices, laptops, tablets, smart -watches etc. food for thought.We are consuming power on an unprecedented scale, and globally.Let’s hope something happens to change the situation for the better.


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