Tablets and Apps – The Rise of Mobile Internet in Russia

While mobile penetration is on the increase everywhere, figures in Russia have reached a record high. Data shows that by the end of September 2013 there were 239.5 million mobile phone subscriptions. Given that recent figures put the Russian population at just under 143 million, this amounts to the equivalent of 168% of the population, which suggests that not only do most of the population have a mobile phone subscription, but some also have more than one SIM card.

Let’s take a look at how this happened and explore the opportunities it opens up for anyone wanting to get involved in the application development market.

The need for speed

In a country as large as Russia that has nine different time zones, long distance communication is vital. While there are still rural black spots with little or no mobile coverage, over the last few years mobile operators have been concentrating on improving 3G coverage throughout the country, and by the end of 2014, Russia’s Big Three mobile operators plan to “raise the threshold for 4G services coverage“. At the moment, the best coverage is in metropolitan areas like Moscow and St. Petersburg, but despite this, mobile internet penetration is growing faster than general internet penetration in all areas of Russia.

Tablets are here to stay

Increased availability and reduced costs of mobile devices mean that they are an increasingly popular choice for internet access, with smartphones having a 49% share of the mobile internet market. With sales figures for smartphones and tablets having already surpassed those of laptops it looks like consumer habits are changing. Data from the research firm IDC shows that in 2013 Russia became the third largest global market for tablets, after the US and China. They predict that if this trend continues the PC market share in Russia will continue to drop to around 13%by 2017, and the sale of tablets will overtake the sale of portable PCs and desktops combined.

There’s an app for that

With mobile applications on the increase it’s no surprise that, globally, application downloads are expected to grow to more than 182 billion in 2015, up from 10.7 billion in 2010, and Russian consumers are following this trend. Researchers say that app development is one of the fastest growing markets in Russia with the market set to grow eight times in the next four years. This could be attributed to an increase in mobile devices, the spread of social media use and gaming, and more apps being available. While the majority of users access apps through the Apple store and Google Play, Yandex.Store has over 100,000 apps and Yandex.Kit has just been launched as a firmware for Android devices that provides a platform for Yandex services.

As mobile internet becomes a part of everyday life in Russia, more and more apps and services will be developed. The way we use the internet is changing and as the technology becomes more widely available throughout a country that is as geographically complex as Russia, this can only be good news for any business wanting to be involved.