The smartphone market may be leveling off in mature markets, such as the United States, but it is projected to expand overall, fueled by growth in emerging markets. As of 2014, 70% of the world's 3.7 billion unique mobile subscribers live in up-and-coming economies. The countries showing the fastest growth in this market are located in Asia and Latin America.

The largest percentage of new smartphone users in emerging markets in 2015 were millennials, defined as young adults between the ages of 18 and 34, and the number of new users in this demographic is projected to increase in 2016. Globally, Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Android is the most popular mobile operating system. Numerous manufacturers produce low- and mid-priced smartphones and tablets running Android that are affordable to consumers in emerging markets. With these statistics in mind, app developers with an eye on growth often adopt a global outlook.

Rapid Growth in Asia and Latin America

In 2015, India had 220 million smartphone users, surpassing the U.S. to become the world's second-largest market after China. Samsung (KSE: 005930.KS) was the most popular smartphone brand sold in India. Micromax, an Indian brand, was the second-most popular mobile phone sold after Samsung, even though more than 150 smartphone brands are available to Indian consumers. Meanwhile in Latin America, smartphone sales were also on the rise. In 2014, Central and South American markets were among the largest for new smartphones worldwide, with more than 109 million units sold in the region. In Latin American countries and India, millennial consumers were the key to rapid growth. The majority of these consumers also indicated that they used smartphones to access the Internet.

Establishing Relationships With Millennial Users

In India, millennial smartphone users spend about 2.2 hours per day on the Internet. While online, they spend much of their time using social media and watching videos. Although millennials in emerging markets don't have as much buying power as Generation X or baby boomer consumers in those countries, they are the fastest group to adapt to digital shopping methods. App developers have a wealth of opportunities to create apps that inform young families and help them make buying decisions. For example, business leaders in Latin America project that millennials will influence the development and widespread use of apps that help consumers access affordable goods and provide digital payment interfaces.

Access More Users in Multiple App Stores

Apps developed for new smartphone users can be placed in multiple app marketplaces. For example, there are more than 200 app stores in China. As of 2015, the top 10 app stores in China included Baidu (NASDAQ: BIDU) Mobile Assistant, 360 Mobile Assistant and Myapp. Chinese alternatives to the Google Play store, such as Mobango and Yandex, are also gaining footholds in India. The appeal of alternative Android app marketplaces in emerging markets is features designed to facilitate app localization such as billing systems that do not require credit cards.

Increased Demand for Utility Apps

The fastest-growing smartphones in emerging markets fall in the budget category, but these devices have some disadvantages, such as short battery lives and low memory, that limit the phones' functionality. The limitations on functionality mean that budget smartphone users are on the lookout for apps to help their phones work better. In 2015, utility apps were the second-most downloaded category of app in India, Brazil and Indonesia. In particular, the most popular apps were battery saver, antivirus, speed booster and phone speed optimizer apps. Developers who build apps tailored to make cheaper phones behave like pricier phones can expect to see ongoing demand for their products.

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