Global data: How often do consumers use third-party apps to make voice calls?

Graeme BruceBusiness Data Journalist
May 25, 2021, 1:53 PM UTC

A new international survey conducted in 17 global markets provides a glimpse of which consumers opt to use third-party apps to make voice calls in favour of traditional phone calls. 

The data shows that consumers in emerging markets, such as Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates and India are among those most likely to use apps such as WhatsApp or Google Hangouts to make voice calls. These figures reflect the years-long upward trend in such markets, since third-party apps can make it significantly cheaper and easier to make calls, particularly internationally. 

In some cases, there is a correlation to data prices. In India, Indonesia, and Italy, usage of such apps is high and mobile data prices are low, though the same can’t be said for the UAE or Mexico, where usage is high, but so are data prices. 

While roughly half of consumers in the above-mentioned markets say they use these services often, in the United States only about a quarter (22%) use apps to make calls and 46% say they never do (the highest proportion in all our countries). Most American consumers enjoy unlimited calling with their mobile plans, which no doubt contributes to the low rate of app usage. Great Britain lands mid-way down our list, with 43% of consumers stating they use mobile apps to make calls very or somewhat often. 

As internet access grows in emerging markets and 5G technology becomes commonplace, the need to make traditional phone calls will no doubt further decline. Platform-agnostic communication services used by businesses, such as Microsoft Teams, Slack and Zoom all provide inexpensive ways to make voice calls, while also offering an array of other tools at the same time. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, businesses and their employees have had a chance to become very familiar with these services, too. 

Perhaps soon, in areas well-served with data networks, telecom companies will only offer data packages with devices, marking a significant shift for the industry. 

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Methodology: The data is based on the interviews of adults aged 18 and over in 17 markets with sample sizes varying between 415 and 1,389 for each market. All interviews were conducted online in April 2021. Data from each market uses a nationally representative sample apart from Mexico and India, which use urban representative samples, and Indonesia and Hong Kong, which use online representative samples.

Image: Getty