Flurry 2021 State of Mobile

By Lisa Moshfegh, Product Marketing | Estelle Laziuk, Flurry Analyst | Aman Bansal, Flurry Analyst

2020 was an unforgettable year. The global COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we live, learn and work. And as the world appeared to be in chaos, smartphones kept people connected, informed and entertained. For this year’s Flurry State of Mobile, we’ll review the most significant global trends related to smartphone adoption, mobile app category growth, and app usage behavior.

Flurry Analytics is used in over 1 million mobile applications, delivering insights from more than 1 billion  smartphones worldwide. All data in this report represents global numbers, excluding China and Europe due to insufficient data. Let’s start with which countries are seeing the greatest growth in smartphone adoption.

Top 10 Countries with Largest Smartphone Growth YoY

In the chart above, we identified the countries with the largest year-over-year increases in new device activations. In other words, these are the countries driving the world’s smartphone growth. India, for example, experienced a 31% year-over-year increase. For a country of 1.3 billion people with smartphone penetration around 30%, this represents tens of millions of new smartphones flooding the market.

Globally, we’ve seen a 6% increase year-over-year in new smartphone activations. But as many countries in North and South America have experienced flat or even a slight decline year-over-year, the growth is clearly coming from countries in Asia and the Middle East. 

Let’s next review year-over-year shifts in market share of the world’s largest smartphone manufacturers and see which companies are benefiting from this smartphone growth.

Global Market Share by OEM

In the bar chart above we list the global smartphone market share of the world’s largest smartphone OEMs. The  gray bars represent 2019 market  share, and the blue bars represent 2020 market share. Samsung has a 13 percentage point lead over Apple, the world’s second largest OEM. And while Apple has made significant gains in international markets with more recently released lower cost  devices, they still have a long way to go close the gap on Samsung’s commanding lead. 

Together, Samsung and Apple make up  over half of all smartphones in use around the world, leaving a large part of the market fragmented. Best poised to shake-up the Samsung-Apple global duopoly is one of several Chinese manufacturers. According to analyst reports, Huawei makes up 43% of China’s smartphone market, which  would  put them  much closer to Apple in terms of global market share than our data illustrates.  However, as Huawei has to contend with U.S. sanctions, Xiaomi, OPPO, or vivo could see an opportunity to gain share. 

Next, let’s take a closer look at the Samsung-Apple split at the country level.

Share of New Activations by Apple and Samsung

In the chart above, we breakout new device activations by country and by OEM, ranked by the countries with the highest Samsung share. The blue lines represent Samsung, the green is Apple, and then we’ve combined all other OEMs together as Others in gray. Once again, this shows Samsung’s dominance at the country level, in addition to the global level we showed in the first chart. However, it also shows how fierce competition is among other Android manufacturers in several key markets including India and Indonesia.   

Knowing that Apple controls 19% of the world’s smartphone market, we can deduce that Google’s Android  operating  system controls the remaining 81%. Next, let’s see how the operating system split looks at the country level.

Android Controls Key Emerging Markets

In the chart above, we list the ten largest markets in terms of total new smartphone devices sorted by share of Android smartphones. As you can see, the Android operating system dominates in many of the world’s largest markets. Even in the United States, arguably Apple’s most important market, Android holds a small lead. And in countries such as India and Indonesia, with large populations and relatively low smartphone penetration, the numbers really tilt in Android’s favor. 

Any plans Apple has for international expansion in some of these key markets could be hampered by the premium prices of iPhone devices. For years, Apple ratched up the price of its most premium devices, with the highest-end models nearing $1,500.  More recently, however, Apple released lower cost devices like the  iPhone XR and iPhone SE likely as a means to find new audiences both in the U.S. and abroad. 

Next look at what groups are driving mobile device and app usage.

Smartphone Growth Worldwide by Generation

In the chart above, we present the percent change in sessions per user from 2019 to 2020 by generation. Generations Z and Y, which collectively represent those from high school age to around 40 years old, increased their app usage the most, by 11% and 34% respectively. We believe that these young adults and young working professionals gained the most additional free time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With school shifting to remote learning, work transitioning to the home, and heavily reduced social activities, these users increasingly turned to their smartphones to pass time. This aligns with an earlier report we published showing that Gen Z mobile gaming surged during the early months of the pandemic. Let’s now review which app categories saw the biggest increases year-over-year.

Top App Categories by Growth Worldwide

In this final chart, we show which app categories had the largest increase in sessions per user from 2019 to 2020. App categories that facilitate working and learning from home, such as Business and Productivity, saw the largest increases, up 85% and 29% respectively. Social apps allowed people to stay in touch when the pandemic prevented in-person gatherings, and of course, Food & Drink benefited from the unexpected interest in baking, as well as the surge in take-out orders. Even though the mobile gaming category only shows a 7% increase, a single digit percentage increase actually represents massive growth as gaming is already one of the most heavily used app categories in mobile.

On the other end of the spectrum, Travel and Shopping app categories suffered major declines year-over-year, likely due to the stay-at-home orders in place throughout much of the year due to COVID-19. 

While 2020 was a year unlike any other, we don’t expect 2021 will bring much normalcy until the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to all. As the world begins to re-open, we believe smartphone and app usage will trail behind as people have become even more connected to their mobile devices than before. Please make sure to follow us on the Flurry blog, Twitter and LinkedIn where we regularly report on smartphone adoption trends and shifts in user behavior. 

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The Flurry blog (https://www.flurry.com/blog/) is an independent blog and has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise approved by Apple Inc. or Samsung.