As smartphones become ubiquitous and more connected devices than ever before are launched, users are keen for networks to deliver better speeds – and are pinning their hopes on 5G.

GSMA Intelligence, the research and consulting arm of the GSMA, has published the initial results of its latest Consumer Survey, providing a wealth of insight on consumer technology adoption trends set to shape the industry over the coming years.

The new data forms the basis of two new GSMA Intelligence reports published at CES 2019. “The Future of Devices” focuses on the global adoption and changing uses of smartphones into the 5G era, plus the growing popularity of smart speakers and other emerging consumer device categories, while “5G’s Great Expectations” examines what consumers are anticipating from the first wave of 5G network and device launches.

“We are at the start of a new era of consumer devices that is being driven by advances in immersive reality and AI, creating a strong consumer appetite for products such as smart speakers and an important new battleground for the major tech players,” says Peter Jarich, head of GSMA Intelligence. “An,d while smartphones remain the dominant consumer technology, device vendors and operators are looking to 5G to unlock a new chapter in the smartphone growth story – even though our research suggests there is still work to do to convince consumers of the benefits of the move to 5G.”

Among the key findings from the 2018 GSMA Intelligence Consumer Survey are:

  • The smartphone is now a nearly ubiquitous consumer technology; almost 90% of consumers in developed countries own a smartphone, with an average of 2,5 smartphones in every US household.
  • Alongside the smartphone, the range of connected devices (and therefore internet access channels) is now greater than ever. The average US and UK household, for example, now owns six connected devices – from TVs to consoles to emerging categories such as smart speakers.
  • Smart speaker ownership rates have nearly doubled in developed countries over the last 12 months. For example, 16% of US households now own a smart speaker, compared to 9% a year earlier. Amazon and Google continue to dominate this sector, together accounting for 85% of sales units worldwide.
  • Despite the early hype, adoption rates of VR headsets in developed markets have remained flat year-on-year at around 6% of households and have even dropped in some key markets such as the UK. AR applications in fashion, gaming and various enterprise sectors are more advanced at this stage.
  • More than half of consumers in developed countries (54%) expect 5G networks to deliver faster speeds, suggesting that early 5G promotional activity will focus on network speed as a key differentiator (versus 4G) – but it is not clear if consumers will pay a premium for faster speeds.
  • Only one in four consumers (25%) expect 5G to deliver ‘innovative new services’, and only 20% believe 5G will usher in a new era of devices.