Last year the U.S. smartphone market finally surpassed 50% market penetration, with the number of smartphone subscribers increasing 29 percent from a year ago and 99 percent from two years ago. Two studies, one from comScore and one from Nielson, show that usage is accordingly up.
Mobile usage accounts for almost 40% of time spent online overall; in some categories, for example Maps, Music, Weather, and Social Networking, people are spending more time with the mobile than on a PC. It’s likely that these gains will continue over time, especially with the increase in younger-generation users; in approximately a year, the usage could show a split closer to 50/50 or even a shift to 60/40 in favor of mobile.
These studies come at a time when many marketers are still treating mobile as a marginal case that they can afford to think about “later.” If 2011 was the waited-for “year of mobile,” then 2012 was the year that marketers should have started embracing the impact of mobile. Consumer PC sales are unlikely to grow again in the future, having reached a plateau already. Save for some radical change, peoples’ view of the PC as the primary device is dissipating. There’s no longer a need for users to upgrade every two years when there are other devices around to access the internet, at least one of which is with them constantly.
ComScore predicts continued smartphone and tablet adoption, and that mobile advertising will become a “branding medium.” Further, the firm anticipates that 4G adoption will enable greater content consumption and new use. The Nielson report offers similar data about hardware adoption and usage, and it presents a global perspective that includes a wide range of countries beyond the US market, as well as focusing in more detail on mobile advertising.
Nielson comments that while smartphone users in the U.S. were most likely to watch video and use navigation apps, Chinese users were more likely to access news and weather updates; meanwhile more than half of users in South Korea regularly use their devices for mobile banking. In the US, Google’s Android OS and Apple’s iOS have nearly 90% of the overall market. Apple continues to gain ground as the leading US smartphone OEM—however, Samsung has seen the most explosive growth in the market over the past few years and has seen a year-over-year increase of more than 100%.
Device preference is evolving worldwide, not just in the States; in South Korea, smartphone owners now make up the majority of mobile consumers, with the same holding true for Australia, China, and the United Kingdom. Contrariwise, in India and Turkey, feature phones are more popular.