Smartphone ownership is one of the four pillars of meaningful connectivity, and for many people, the high cost of these devices is a persistent reason for why they don’t use the internet.
Following our publication of From Luxury to Lifeline in 2020, this is A4AI’s second data collection on device prices and the first with global coverage. It’s the world’s largest open dataset on mobile device prices, with indications of the cheapest new smartphone and feature phone from a major mobile network operator in 187 countries.
The global average cost of a smartphone is around 26% of an average monthly income, US$104. However, there are significant divisions in affordability between regions and countries that suggest smartphones remain inaccessible to many.
In some regions, people would have to spend far more than the global average. Even worse, in the Least Developed Countries, the average person would have to spend over half of their monthly income to buy a smartphone. Those in low-income countries have to spend almost 70% of their average monthly income to purchase the cheapest available smartphone on the market.
Figure 1 – Smartphone Affordability by Region | Source: Alliance for Affordable Internet (Made with Highcharts)
In sharp contrast, in regions such as Latin America & the Caribbean that have higher average incomes, the cheapest smartphone on the market represents only 14% of their monthly income. In North America, that number drops even further to just a mere 2%.
Massive disparities persist between high- and low-income countries with respect to connectivity. As policymakers look to use digital connectivity as a foundation for a post-Covid economic revival, the affordability and availability of high-quality and functional devices like smartphones need to be a key indicator for economic performance.
This data was collected by Mahtab Laghaei, Julia Meltzer, and Mitchel Ondili, with supervision from Ana María Rodríguez Pulgarín and Teddy Woodhouse.
This database is licensed under Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0). This means you are free to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the database in any medium or format, even for commercial purposes, as long as you credit the Alliance for Affordable Internet.
Suggested citation: Alliance for Affordable Internet (2021). 2021 prices and affordability of smartphones and feature phones by country [database]. Retrieved from https://a4ai.org/research/device-pricing-2021/