NEW YORK: Global smartphone penetration is expected to be around 33% in 2013 and to pass 50% by 2017, according to a meta-analysis by eMarketer, the insights provider.

In this case, eMarketer evaluated more than 2,200 data points from more than 220 research sources to develop its estimates of mobile and smartphone usage and penetration.

It calculated that six countries saw smartphone penetration rates among mobile phone users rise above 50% for the first time during 2012.

These were South Korea, Norway, Sweden, Australia, the UK and the US. South Korea led the way with a 60% penetration rate and eMarketer predicted the following five years would see a "domino effect hit regions around the world as smartphones become the norm in more places".

Canada, Finland and the Netherlands are expected to pass a 50% penetration rate among mobile users in 2013, with Japan, France, Germany, Spain and Italy following in 2014.

The penetration rate among the general population – as opposed to mobile phone users – will exceed 50% this year in South Korea, Australia, Norway and Sweden, eMarketer forecast. Worldwide, this figure is currently just under 20%.

The rapid uptake of smartphones has implications for marketers, but, as a Warc report from the 2013 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year noted, nuances in consumption patterns mean that "test and learn" strategies must be deployed to explore the most effective means of communication.

This could mean in many emerging markets that SMS, MMS, and browser-based marketing may be the norm, not the exception.

Data sourced from eMarketer, additional content by Warc staff