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Macro demographics just as important as new product introduction for the mobile industry

Demographics 1 01.25.2013Enlarge GraphWhile mobile industry executives are likely pre-occupied with new product introduction, unit sales, and average selling prices for their products, a review of macro demographic trends likely yields some answers as to where in the world the industry’s resources should be deployed. The mobile industry is global in nature with a handset user in Mumbai having the opportunity to use the same handset as someone in Moscow. The demographic trends regionally across various continents however are quite different with the fastest industry growth occurring in parts of Asia versus more mature growth in parts of Western Europe.

According to global user data from the International Data Corporation (IDC), Hong Kong and Germany are the most developed markets when looking at mobile subscribers per 100 in population. Hong Kong sports 210 mobile subscribers per 100 people in the region according to IDC, which means that the average mobile user in Hong Kong has over 2 mobile connections. This is far and away the most advanced reading, with Germany the next highest in the world at just 132. We attribute any regions over 100 mobile connections per 100 in population as having a large corporate user base, which would mean consumers have both a personal mobile subscription as well as work or enterprise subscription. To boot, Hong Kong has had the third fastest growth rate of subscribers with a 8% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in subscribers per 100 from 2004 to 2011 according to IDC.

Demographics 2 01.25.2013Enlarge Graph

While lower numbers are only a good thing in golf, low subscribers per 100 in population spell opportunity for the mobile industry. Surveying the IDC data shows under penetrated markets in China (with just 73 mobile users per 100) and Brazil (with 123 mobile users per 100). These markets reflect opportunity with the fastest growth globally with Brazil at 15% per annum and China not far behind at 14%. More mature markets are relayed by the more subtle growth in Britain for example, at just 3% growth during this time and France which has been expanding its mobile base per 100 at just 4%.

The mobile device companies with the largest exposure to Asia Pacific, one of the fastest growing parts of the world, include Research in Motion (RIMM) with 27% of its total revenues in the region. Apple (AAPL) has the next highest exposure at 21% of total revenues, with Nokia (NOK) having the smallest percentage of sales in Asia of these 3 companies at 14%.