Pay-As-You-Phone: How Global Consumers Pay for Mobile

Pay-As-You-Phone: How Global Consumers Pay for Mobile

Payment options continue to expand as mobile access becomes globally more widespread, and consumers in most markets prefer pre-paid plans over contracted service, according to an analysis by Nielsen. In fact, the U.S. is one of the few markets where contract plans are more prevalent.

While consumers prefer pre-paid mobile plans in many markets, device type often affects how consumers pay for their mobile service. Specifically, smartphone owners in each global market were less likely to use prepaid plans than non-smartphone users during 2012. For example, 51 percent of China’s smartphone owners used prepaid services, compared with 59 percent of non-smartphone users. Consumers in more developed markets, like the U.K. and U.S., were the exception, especially among smartphone owners whose handsets are often subsidized by mobile carriers.

Chart comparing pre-paid and contract mobile phone usage in global markets.

Payment preference for data plans is also different in markets where 3G/4G is more widely available, such as the U.K. Consumers are more likely to use unlimited data plans in developed markets like Korea and Japan, but other developed markets have a wider variety of pay-as-you-go options for data, such as pre-paid and pay-per-each-MB of use.

Comparing payment for mobile data usage by smartphone owners in global markets.

Look for Nielsen at Mobile World Congress 2013 where our mobile experts will present insights on the everyday mobile behaviors of global consumers.


For all countries, data was collected to be representative of census demographics and weighted to reflect natural device penetration.

India:  From March-April 2012, Face-to-Face (F2F) interviews were conducted among 3,067 mobile users, including 1,593 smartphone users.

Turkey:  From April-May 2012, F2F interviews were conducted with 776 mobile users, all of whom were smartphone users.

China, Italy, Korea, Australia, and Russia: Online survey of 8,595 mobile subscribes aged 16 and older. Due to the online-only methodology in China, which excludes a large portion of China’s rural population, smartphone penetration may skew high.

U.S.:  From April-June 2012, online interviews were conducted with 76,204 mobile users aged 13+ who were asked to identify what type of mobile device they own

U.K.:  Online interviews were conducted nationally in March 2012 among 1,607 mobile users, including 995 smartphone users.