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Cellphones now outnumber the world’s population

Mike Murphy
By Mike Murphy

Technology editor

From our Obsession

Big Tech

Looking at Big Tech as the next Big Oil.

If there is one thing that just about everyone on Earth may be able to agree upon, it seems it would be that we all find our cellphones to be a necessity.

At some point in the middle of this decade, the number of active cellphone subscriptions grew larger than the number of actual people on this planet, according to data from the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the World Bank, and the UN itself.

Not everyone likely has their own phone, however: there are an estimated 1.1 billion people in the world who don’t have access to electricity, meaning charging a phone, let alone owning one, would likely be difficult. Most likely, some people have more than one device for work and personal reasons, or to save on international calls. And presumably, there are millions of infants who, hopefully, don’t have phones yet.

And this is not to say that smartphone ownership is nearly as high. The ITU estimates there to be roughly 5.28 billion “mobile broadband” subscriptions as of the end of 2018. And about 45% of that group—2.38 billion users—check Facebook on their smartphones each month.

While cellphone proliferation has fallen off drastically in the last few years, it’s still outpacing population growth, so don’t expect the trend to change anytime soon.

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