I was asked recently if I thought features phones are dead or will be dead soon. Due to my current work, I know that low resourced areas of developing nations have a strong need for feature phones, mostly for their SMS capability. So my gut feeling was that the feature phone is nowhere near dead. But I needed to justify my instinct with data, so I went on a search.
Thankfully, there was a recent report published by Ericsson that gave me what I need. Below are a series of graphs, with my take on them, that provide a summary of the data.
Feature phones are far from dead and won’t be dead for a while
As you can see from the graph, feature phones currently sit around 3.5 billion users with a decrease to approx. 2.3 billion users by 2021. At that rate, they’ll likely be around until 2030 or so.
The majority of feature phone users are not in the Americas or Western Europe
Not surprisingly, approx. 85% of feature phone users are in Asia Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East and Africa. I can’t break that down further to specific nations using the provided dataset.
In 5 years, Africa feature phone usage won’t drop as much as other regions
Looking at the report’s projection to 2021, you’ll notice that a small reduction (around 25%) will happen in the CEMA (Central Europe, Middle East & Africa) region. Compare that to Asia Pacific’s 45% drop during the same time period. Even though the data shows a drop in the CEMA region, it’s very likely that lack of infrastructure & discretionary income in Africa is the main reason for the smaller drop. These conditions will result in a lack of adoption of smartphone technology, resulting in a delay in the ‘death of the feature phone’.
Looks like it’ll be around for a while.