Guess how many mobile phones are there in the world at the moment, excluding those on the shop shelves? In other words, how many people in the world own a mobile? 100 millions? 300? 400? 500? Well, let us not lose in conjectures; the fact is that are more than 1.35 billion mobiles, according to the opinions of experts. And this is not the end, this is just a beginning. Last year, according to Alex Slawsky, a senior analyst at IDC, 551 million cell phones were sold, comparing to 456 million in 2002. Tim Long, an analyst at Bank of America, in May projected that 650 million wireless handsets would be sold this year and 730 million next year. Trikon Technologies Inc., which makes equipment used in the construction of cell-phone components, said in a recent release that the worldwide handset market is "forecasted to reach 1 billion units by 2006." In 2009, they say, about 1.1 billion handsets will be sold. By 2008 there should be 2 billion wireless subscribers in the world-30 percent of the projected global population.
These numbers are jaw-dropping if you start thinking about them. Considering that the current population is somewhere around 6.372 billion, Long is suggesting that one of every 10 human beings will buy - not possess, but buy - a new cell phone this year. Trikon believes that in 2006, one of every 6.5 humans will do the same. Not adults, not working people, but one of every 6.5 people around the world. This is amazing even for the manufacturers of mobiles themselves. The Gartner research firm said that the world's appetite for mobile phones had exceeded even the most optimistic expectations. "Mobile phones could go on to be the most common consumer electronics device on the planet," says Gartner analyst Ben Wood. And by the end of 2009, some 2.6 billion mobiles will be in regular use around the world, Gartner predicts. The firm's findings are based on a study that surveyed and analyzed the sales figures from 62 countries around the globe.
The nature of a mobile phone is likely to evolve. In mature and sated markets like the UK, Germany and the US there will be more mobiles catering to specific functionality, whether it will be music, photography or video. In less developed markets, meanwhile, phones will again be targeted to specific needs. In sub-Saharan Africa phones are likely to be small, simple and with very good battery life, Mr. Wood suggested. At the same time, the Asian tigers, as well as Pacific states, will account for almost a third of all mobile sales by 2009. "China and India alone will account for nearly 200 million units in 2007, with the Indian market surpassing China in 2009 to reach 139 million units," says Gartner analyst Ann Liang. That is no wonder, as China and India, with a combined population of more than 2 billion, represent the greatest growth markets for cell phones. In 2003, sales of handsets in China and India were 74 million and 17 million respectively.
Sales are also expected to increase four times in the Middle East and Africa, from 33 million in 2003 to 123 million in 2009. The expectations also assume that sales will continue to grow in developed markets where there is already an outstandingly high number of mobiles like Japan (62.7 percent) and Western Europe (77.2 percent). In these markets, most of the activity comes from selling newfangled phones to existing users. And manufacturers are busily stuffing new features into cell phones - cameras, text messaging or Internet access. So what does this all mean? In developing countries of Asia and Africa the mobile markets are skyrocketing, because most of the populations still do not have mobiles. This process represents quantitative changes. In the developed post-industrial countries like Europe or the US the market is sustained mostly by the new and improved models of the existing phones sold to the existing users. This process represents the qualitative model. The difference is slight - for both models work for one purpose - 2.9 billion mobile phones by the end of 2009.