Assured Labor

Smartphone Penetration in Latin America

Latin America has the lowest smartphone penetration in the world, currently standing at 17%. Source 6.

Smartphone Penetration in Latin America

As I boarded my flight back to San Francisco, it was impossible not to notice that nearly every passenger already seated was reading on their iPad, typing emails on their Blackberry, or using apps on their iPhone 4S. With a 63 percent smartphone penetration in North America, the prevalence of smartphones and touch pads in the United States has become the norm, making it easy to forget that “It’s Still A Feature Phone World.”[1] As of the end of November 2011, Latin America had sales volume of 139 million feature phones and 28 million smartphones, meaning smartphone penetration in Latin America stands at around 17 percent.[2] As can be seen from the graphic above, Latin America has the lowest smartphone penetration in the world.

Since the launching of 3G networks in late 2007 and early 2008 in Latin America, smartphone penetration has been growing steadily. Increasing affluence across Latin America has driven consumers to become more willing to pay for better phones, coverage, and data services. From the first quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of 2011, data service revenues in Latin America grew by 40.3 percent, compared to a 20.3 percent global average.[3] This increase in data service revenues in Latin America was primarily driven by increased smartphone adoption rates. In 2010, smartphones were the fastest-growing handset category across Latin America, with sales of 31 million units and $6 billion in revenue.[4] Given that the primary driver of smartphone penetration is the affordability of the units, as the price of smartphones decreases, the level of penetration will continue to increase.

According to Pyramid Research, it is expected that smartphone unit sales in Latin America will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 30 percent over the next five years. The firm estimates that by 2016, smartphone sales will account for approximately 46 percent of total handset sales in the region, as compared to 3 percent in 2008.[5] In summary, although the current penetration of smartphones in Latin America is currently lower than might be expected, the dramatic increases in smartphone penetration that have been seen and are expected in the coming years will create tremendous market opportunities.


[1] Sarah Perez, It’s Still A Feature Phone World: Global Smartphone Penetration At 27%, (November 2011).
[2] Ibid.
[3] ABI Research, Growing Affluence, Smartphone Adoption and Social Apps Pushing Latin America Ahead of Other Regions for Mobile Revenue Growth, (June 2011).
[4] RCR Wireless, Report: Smartphones sales in Latin America reach $6B, 31 million units in 2010, (November 2011).
[5] Ibid.
[6] Sarah Perez, It’s Still A Feature Phone World: Global Smartphone Penetration At 27%, (November 2011).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *