Bitkom Germany: More than 38 billion euros turnover around smartphones

February 21, 2023

  • – Forecast 2023: 21.4 million new devices sold in Germany
  • – Smartphones will be used longer
  • – 86 percent can no longer imagine life without a smartphone

Despite inflation and disrupted supply chains: Sales around smartphones have stabilised at a high level and will increase slightly again this year. In 2023, the market for smartphones, apps, mobile telecommunications services and mobile communications infrastructure in Germany is expected to grow to 38.6 billion euros. Compared to the previous year (38.2 billion euros), this is an increase of around 1 percent. This is the result of current calculations by the digital association Bitkom. According to these calculations, data and voice services account for the largest share of sales with 21.2 billion euros (+1.5 percent compared to the previous year). The network operators’ investments in mobile infrastructure are also increasing: 2.1 billion euros (+2.8 per cent) will flow into the network infrastructure for mobile communication this year, with costs for frequencies, buildings and construction services still to be added. The app market, on the other hand, is shrinking to 3.3 billion euros (-3.8 per cent). Spending on apps had increased exceptionally during the Corona pandemic, currently the app market is experiencing a slight correction, but revenues are still much higher than before the Corona pandemic.

Smartphones themselves are expected to generate 12 billion euros in sales in 2023, a slight increase of 1.5 per cent. In contrast, sales will decline slightly to 21.4 million devices, 21.6 million smartphones were sold in Germany in 2022 and 22.2 million in 2021. On the other hand, the average price per device is rising: while a smartphone still cost 549 euros on average in 2022, it will already be 563 euros in 2023. “Smartphones are of higher quality, more powerful and less prone to repair than before. Consumers tend to spend more money to enjoy their devices longer,” says Bitkom Executive Committee member Markus Haas. “The production of a smartphone requires a lot of raw materials and energy. If smartphones are used longer, this has a positive effect on the ecological footprint.”

Smartphones are being used longer again

Accordingly, the share of people who bought their smartphone within the last 12 months is decreasing. For 55 percent, the device is less than a year old. This is shown by the results of a current representative population survey commissioned by Bitkom. In 2022, this share was 60 percent and in 2021 63 percent. Almost a quarter (23 percent) have been using their smartphone for two years or more – a significant increase compared to previous years, when it was 16 percent (2022) and 8 percent (2021). “Smartphones can also be used reliably and safely for longer because manufacturers are now offering updates for longer,” says Haas.

Two thirds want to take good selfies

A lower susceptibility to repair and the longest possible service life now play the most important role when choosing a smartphone: for 95 per cent, a robust screen glass is a decisive criterion, almost as many (94 per cent) pay attention to the battery life. The screen quality (92 percent) and the available storage space (89 percent) follow behind. 87 percent attach importance to a long-term supply of updates and 80 percent to the camera quality. When it comes to photos, a good front camera for selfies (67 percent) and a zoom function (67 percent) are important when choosing a smartphone. The ability to take night photos (63 percent), a high megapixel count (58 percent) and wide-angle shots (50 percent) are also among the important criteria. Only 14 percent of users do not pay attention to the camera functions.

Increasing willingness to pay for new devices

On average, users want to spend 238 euros on their next smartphone – in 2022 it was 232 and in 2021 200 euros. 14 percent are willing to invest 300 to 499 euros. Another 14 percent want to pay 500 euros and more. In contrast, 24 percent want to spend less than 100 euros. Haas: “Low prices are especially possible where new devices and mobile phone contracts are combined.”

A life without a smartphone? Hard to imagine

Overall, the smartphone is part of life for the vast majority of users. 86 percent can no longer imagine life without the device – this value is high across all age groups. 69 percent also say: “My smartphone makes me feel safer in everyday life. For almost all of them (95 per cent), the smartphone is a great relief in everyday life. Sometimes, however, the device can also lead to interpersonal conflicts. Three quarters (76 percent) agree that the increasing use of smartphones leads to people talking less to each other. 68 percent feel annoyed when another person only looks at their smartphone during a meeting – 30 percent, however, are not bothered by this.

The younger, the more time on the smartphone

The younger the users, the more time they spend with their smartphones. On average, 16- to 29-year-olds use their devices for almost three hours a day – a total of 177 minutes. The 30- to 49-year-olds estimate their daily use at an average of 151 minutes and the 50- to 64-year-olds at 144 minutes. Only among seniors over 65 is the average usage time significantly less than two hours, at 80 minutes. “Smartphones are an integral part of our everyday lives. They keep us connected with our family and our circle of friends. They inform and entertain us, increase our productivity and support us in many situations in life,” emphasises Bitkom Executive Committee member Haas.

Good reception, high network coverage: What is crucial in mobile communications?

Accordingly, good reception is an important criterion for almost all smartphone users when choosing a mobile phone provider – both at home (98 percent) and in general (97 percent). The highest possible surfing speed is decisive for 89 percent and the lowest possible prices for 87. Flexibility is also important to many users: three quarters (75 percent) look for a contract term of no more than one year and 72 percent for flexible cancellation options. The environmental commitment of the network operator is an important criterion for half (55 per cent).

For half, their data volume is not enough

Almost all users of a smartphone also use it to access the internet – only 4 percent do not make use of this option, whereby this applies mostly to those over 65. Online access takes place in several ways: 88 percent are logged on to their home WLAN, 73 percent also use WLAN spots on the road. 87 percent use the internet via mobile phone. For about half (47 per cent), the monthly inclusive data volume is not enough and 7 per cent have more than they actually need. 43 percent have the tariff that suits them. They rate their data volume as sufficient. On average, German smartphone users have 5.5 GB available per month. “Data throughput in mobile networks is growing exponentially,” says Haas. “Above all, the increasing use of video streaming and the trend towards video telephony are ensuring that people have ever higher expectations of reliable and fast mobile coverage.”

Mobile phone expansion: speed up procedures, streamline bureaucracy

From Bitkom’s point of view, it is of crucial importance that planning and approval procedures for mobile phone expansion are simplified and accelerated. In Germany, it can take up to 14 months for a building application for a mobile phone mast to be approved in addition, there are other aspects such as the search for a location, the agreement with land owners and the actual building activity. “Since none of the announced easements in building law have come into force so far, a site in rural areas unfortunately still takes an average of 3 years to go into operation. We need to streamline the bureaucracy and massively speed up the procedures for network expansion,” Haas emphasises. “The expansion of digital infrastructures is of immense importance for Germany’s economic and social development. The proclaimed new ‘German pace’ must also apply to the expansion of telecommunications networks.”

In this context, Bitkom is particularly in favour of introducing approval fictions for mobile radio sites. A fictitious approval means that after a period of 3 months, an automatic approval for the construction of a mobile radio site is granted, which can then be subsequently changed by the authorities in case of doubt. Currently, far more than 90 percent of the projects are decided positively anyway. Haas: “The planned acceleration pact of the Federal Government and the Länder must now come quickly and contain effective measures. The municipalities can also support the mobile phone expansion on site by advertising for new sites and making their properties available for the construction of new sites.” It is also important, he said, that a procedure is chosen for the upcoming allocation of mobile frequencies that does not deprive the market of investment funds and enables companies to continue to press ahead at full speed with the 5G expansion, which is particularly important for Germany’s digitisation.

Note on methodology: The forecasts on the market for smartphones are based on data from the market research institutes IDC and Research2Guidance. The basis for the data on the use of smartphones and mobile communications is a survey conducted by Bitkom Research on behalf of the digital association Bitkom. In the process, 1,004 people in Germany aged 16 and over were interviewed by telephone. The survey is representative.

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