More than half of the world online via mobile subscriptions

In August 2015, over 3.7 billion unique subscribers – more than half of the world’s population – had at least one mobile subscription. By 2020, GSMA predicts around three-fifths of the global population will have mobile subscriptions, with close to one billion new subscribers added over the period.*

With penetration rates in developed markets approaching levels close to saturation, the majority of the next billion new subscribers will be coming from emerging markets.

Developed markets vs. emerging markets

Smartphone users in emerging markets like India, Indonesia and Brazil have different usage needs than smartphone users in Europe and North America. While most people in North America and Europe have a mobile data-plan subscription and a credit card to purchase apps from Google Play and Apple’s App Store, users in emerging markets are predominantly on prepaid plans “topping-up” their mobile phone credit balance – when they can afford to – in order to be able to use voice and data services, with very few having access to credit cards.

The new subscription app store model vs. the “traditional” app store model

Google Play and the App Store are built on the “traditional” app store model where users can access a catalog of apps featuring both free and paid app downloads. These app stores still dominate the app download space, with over 80% of all apps being downloaded worldwide coming from one of these stores.

As more and more people in emerging markets move from feature phones to smartphones, the amount of apps being downloaded will continue to grow. However, this does not necessarily mean that the app revenue for these stores will continue to grow in these markets, as the majority of apps being downloaded will be free, since users will not have the credit card required to purchase apps.

Opera’s Subscription Mobile Store and our recently acquired Apps Club from Bemobi are built on the newer subscription app-store model, where users can download “all they can use” apps and games for one small, weekly subscription fee. Best of all, users don’t need a credit card to be able to purchase apps.

Opera makes it possible for mobile operators in emerging markets to have their own operator-branded app stores that work for their users, while allowing them to take part in the app revenue game. Built on the Opera Mobile Store, the third-largest app store in the world, users have access to thousands of premium apps and games. Opera provides simple tools for operators that allow the weekly fee to be deducted from the user’s prepaid balance or be billed on their postpaid bill.

Opera, together with our partners worldwide, strives to enable more people, in more places, to experience what matters, when it matters most.


*Sources: We Are Social Digital, Social & Mobile in 2015 report, GSMA Global Mobile Economy Report 2015.

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