Five Billion Mobile Phones, What Does It Mean?

According to iSuppli the world "crossed the 5 billion [mobile subscriber] threshold in September." According to the World Bank there are 6.7 billion people on the planet. Simple math suggests that almost 75% of the world's population has a mobile phone? 

I find that difficult to accept. But this new datapoint will surely make it into a lot of slide presentations: roughly 1 billion (or so) PCs compared with 5 billion mobile devices.

Mobile Device Subscriptions

Source: iSuppli

In the US, somewhere between 30% and 40% of mobile subscribers access the Internet on their handsets; smartphone figures are much higher (per Opus/Nielsen): 

Most of the 5 billion mobile devices are non-smartphones but in many developing countries mobile is already the primary "computing" or Internet platform regardless. Even in developed countries with a PC infrastructure people will increasingly turn to mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) as primary Internet access points in the next several years.

It's worth citing this Morgan Stanley projection again: 

Screen shot 2010-09-17 at 4.12.23 PM

We're moving very quickly into the post-PC era. That doesn't mean that people won't be using PCs and laptops it just means that they will be competing with smartphones, tablets (of various sizes) and a range of other connected devices for our attention and allegiance.

The implications for marketers are pretty clear and relatively immediate: figure out this mobile thing and how it fits into the larger marketing mix or risk not reaching important customer segments (especially younger users) -- at the potential moment of greatest interest and willingness to buy.