Charting The Rise of Mobile Device Subscriptions Worldwide
There were approximately 8.6 billion mobile device subscriptions worldwide as of 2021, more than there are people on the planet.
Yet, while mobile phones, tablets, and other devices have become extremely common across the globe, access still varies greatly from country to country.
Using data from Our World in Data, this chart by Pablo Alvarez tracks the rise of mobile phones across the globe, showing the discrepancies in mobile phone subscriptions in select countries.
The Evolution of the Mobile Market
Before diving into the present-day divide, it’s worth quickly explaining how the overall cell phone market and mobile devices in general have evolved over the last three decades.
Below is a summary of the history of the mobile market since its onset in the early 90s.
The 90s and Early 2000s: The Beginning
The first mobile device hit the market in 1983, with Motorola’s launch of the DynaTAC 8000X. This clunky analog phone cost nearly $4,000 and needed to be recharged after 30 minutes of use.
By the early 1990s, innovation in the industry had somewhat taken off, with various manufacturers like Nokia and Sony starting to launch their own devices.
While this gave consumers more product options to choose from, the technology was still fairly new, and mobile adoption was relatively low compared to today’s figures.
2007 and Onwards: Apple Opens Up the Market
Though many companies introduced mobile phones, and a few launched early tablet devices like the PalmPilot and the Nokia 770, it was Apple’s foray into the market that shook things up.
The iPhone’s launch in 2007, and the iPad’s debut in 2010, ushered in a new era of mobile devices. Their touch-screen design was revolutionary at the time, and they were also exceptionally more functional through the App Store, since users could download hundreds of different mobile applications and games quickly.
This is when the rise of mobile really started to pick up across the globe. In 2007, there were nearly 3.4 billion mobile device subscriptions worldwide or about 50% of the global population.
Present Day: Mobile Devices Are Common, But Not Ubiquitous
In many parts of the world, millions of people rely on their mobile phones and tablets every day for work, social life, or simple day-to-day activities like figuring out directions or deciding what to make for dinner.
Yet, while overall mobile subscriptions have surpassed the global population, adoption hasn’t been equally spread across the globe.
Here’s a look at mobile device subscriptions per 100 people, in 12 different regions:
|Country||Mobile Subscriptions Per 100 People (2020)|
|🇭🇰 Hong Kong||291|
|🇿🇦 South Africa||161|
|🇺🇸 United States||106|
|🇸🇸 South Sudan||12|
As the table above shows, some regions have a lot more mobile phone subscriptions than people, while other places are lagging behind.
In regions with a surplus, people likely have multiple devices and SIM-enabled gadgets like smartwatches and connected cars. This explains how in Macao, mobile subscriptions are more than 300% higher than the country’s population.
On the flip side, in South Sudan, there are just 12 mobile phone subscriptions for every 100 people in the country. Poverty is widespread across the country, which helps explain its relatively low number of mobile subscriptions. According to the World Bank, only 7.2% of the South Sudan’s population has access to electricity.
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.
Ranked: America’s 20 Biggest Tech Layoffs Since 2020
How bad are the current layoffs in the tech sector? This visual reveals the 20 biggest tech layoffs since the start of the pandemic.
Ranked: America’s 20 Biggest Tech Layoffs This Decade
The events of the last few years could not have been predicted by anyone. From a global pandemic and remote work as the standard, to a subsequent hiring craze, rising inflation, and now, mass layoffs.
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, essentially laid off the equivalent of a small town just weeks ago, letting go of 12,000 people—the biggest layoffs the company has ever seen in its history. Additionally, Amazon and Microsoft have also laid off 10,000 workers each in the last few months, not to mention Meta’s 11,000.
This visual puts the current layoffs in the tech industry in context and ranks the 20 biggest tech layoffs of the 2020s using data from the tracker, Layoffs.fyi.
The Top 20 Layoffs of the 2020s
Since 2020, layoffs in the tech industry have been significant, accelerating in 2022 in particular. Here’s a look at the companies that laid off the most people over the last three years.
|Rank||Company||# Laid Off||% of Workforce||As of|
Layoffs were high in 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, halting the global economy and forcing staff reductions worldwide. After that, things were steady until the economic uncertainty of last year, which ultimately led to large-scale layoffs in tech—with many of the biggest cuts happening in the past three months.
The Cause of Layoffs
Most workforce slashings are being blamed on the impending recession. Companies are claiming they are forced to cut down the excess of the hiring boom that followed the pandemic.
Additionally, during this hiring craze competition was fierce, resulting in higher salaries for workers, which is now translating in an increased need to trim the fat thanks to the current economic conditions.
Of course, the factors leading up to these recent layoffs are more nuanced than simple over-hiring plus recession narrative. In truth, there appears to be a culture shift occurring at many of America’s tech companies. As Rani Molla and Shirin Ghaffary from Recode have astutely pointed out, tech giants really want you to know they’re behaving like scrappy startups again.
Twitter’s highly publicized headcount reduction in late 2022 occurred for reasons beyond just macroeconomic factors. Elon Musk’s goal of doing more with a smaller team seemed to resonate with other founders and executives in Silicon Valley, providing an opening for others in tech space to cut down on labor costs as well. In just one example, Mark Zuckerberg hailed 2023 as the “year of efficiency” for Meta.
Meanwhile, over at Google, 12,000 jobs were put on the chopping block as the company repositions itself to win the AI race. In the words of Google’s own CEO:
“Over the past two years we’ve seen periods of dramatic growth. To match and fuel that growth, we hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today… We have a substantial opportunity in front of us with AI across our products and are prepared to approach it boldly and responsibly.”– Sundar Pichai
The Bigger Picture in the U.S. Job Market
Beyond the tech sector, job openings continue to rise. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed a total of 11 million job openings across the U.S., an increase of almost 7% month-over-month. This means that for every unemployed worker in America right now there are 1.9 job openings available.
Additionally, hiring increased significantly in January, with employers adding 517,000 jobs. While the BLS did report a decrease in openings in information-based industries, openings are increasing rapidly especially in the food services, retail trade, and construction industries.
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