US Consumers Shifting from Feature Phones to Smartphones

January 27, 2012

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Boomers & Older | Data-driven | Europe & Middle East | Men | Mobile Phone | Technology | Telecom | Women | Youth & Gen X

google-phone-ownership-jan12.gifThe proportion of consumers in the US who own a smartphone is almost on par with the proportion owning a feature phone, according to [pdf] a report released in January 2012 by Google. 38% of US consumers responding to Phase 2 of the survey, conducted in September and October 2011, reported ownership of a smartphone, up 22.5% from 31% of respondents to Phase 1 of the survey, conducted in January and February 2011. By contrast, during that time period, the proportion reporting ownership of a feature phone dropped 17% from 47% to 39%. The shift was even more stark in the UK, with the percentage of consumers claiming ownership of a smartphone jumping 50% from 30% to 45%, while those reporting ownership of a feature phone fell from 57% to 43%.

However, according to a survey released in December 2011 by Analysys Mason, 46% of mobile phone users in 6 European countries and the US who have not already bought a smartphone do not feel they have the motivation to upgrade, with the high price of smartphones and the perceived lack of need for functionalities among the contributors to consumer apathy.

Mobile Phones Exceed Computer Usage

Data from Google’s “Mobile Internet & Smartphone Adoption” indicates that more consumers use a mobile phone (feature phone or smartphone) than a computer (desktop or laptop) across the 5 countries studied (the US, UK, Germany, France, and Japan). Within the US, roughly three-quarters of respondents to the Phase 2 survey used a mobile phone, compared to 68% who used a desktop or laptop.

According to the Analysys Mason results, laptops now have higher penetration rates (64%) than music systems, such as stereos (54%).

Smartphone Internet Use Increases

US consumers are also increasingly using smartphones for internet access, with 69% of respondents to Google’s Phase 2 survey saying they use the internet on their smartphone daily, up from 67% of respondents to the Phase 1 survey. This increased use does not appear to come at computer’s expense, though: among smartphone users with a PC or laptop, daily internet usage on their computer also grew during that time period, from 78% to 80%.

Overall, US smartphone users responding to the Phase 2 survey were more likely to own a laptop (73%) than a desktop (57%), with tablet (17%) penetration also high.

Other Findings:

  • Results from Google’s report indicate that the average age of a US smartphone user – per the second wave of the survey – is 38.6. A plurality (24%) were aged 45-54, up from 21% of respondents to the previous survey.
  • 51% of US smartphone owners responding to the Phase 2 survey were men, down from 53% in Phase 1. According to December results from Compete, though, 53% of US smartphone owners in Q2 2011 were women, marking a 7% point share increase from Q2 2010, when men dominated the market.
  • The proportion of US smartphone owners that were married fell from 55% to 51% during the 2 phases of the Google survey, while the proportion who had no children increased from 51% to 56%.
  • According to Analysys Mason, more than two-thirds of respondents take their mobile phone overseas, mostly using them for text messaging while abroad (49% of consumers). Use of over-the-top (OTT) messaging services and Wi-Fi are also increasing.

About the Data: The Google findings are based on surveys of 2000 general population consumers aged 18 or older in each country. The Analysys Mason results are based on a survey of 7485 consumers in 6 European countries and the US.

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