Smartphones Are Cool for Kids, Dumbphones Doomed: Global Survey

A new Nielsen report on cell phone use by young people around the world reveals a wealth of data, but tells us two main things: price is the main drive and smartphones are the must-have gizmo.

Nielsen smartphone survey 1

We know that kids love their cell phones–there’s data showing that the age of first ownership of a phone is pushing younger all the time. Now Nielsen’s new survey has tried to probe some of the trends among cell ownership by young people around the world in a more detailed way, and it’s turned up a handful of interesting trends. The survey pretty much confirms that smartphones will soon be ubiquitous–and will range from super-cheap to expensive. The dumbphone’s days are numbered–even among the spendthrift young.


Surveying people aged between 15 and 24 in numerous countries around the world, Nielsen found that the majority of this younger age sector chose their own phones–not surprising, given the traditional “independent” streak that hits typical teenagers, or new young workers, but a sign that parents are deferring choice of the device even to younger people, which shows how deeply the phone has penetrated societal norms. The trend is global, though United Kingdon youths are much more independent in choice than U.S. kids–as are most other nations.

Price is the driving motivation for this age gap, becoming more important in poorer countries. A Qwerty keyboard is almost as important as price in the U.S., reflecting the current craze for SMSing here–a trend which swept around the rest of the world some time ago.

But it’s when the data gets to smartphones that things get really interesting. Italy leads the trend for adopting smartphones over dumbphones–with 47% owning smartphones instead of lesser functioning phones. Since just 31% of adults 25 or over in Italy have smartphones, we can see that the pressure is toward greater smartphone adoption, led by the youth. The U.S. lags behind here with just 33% of young people owning smartphones.

The U.S. is also an exception in male-female share of smartphone ownership–it favors young men pretty much everywhere, except in the U.S., where 55% of young smartphone owners are women.

What can we learn from this? Android’s push to sell more, cheaper devices is likely to succeed, and push up ownership among younger users everywhere–likewise Apple’s habit of retaining the previous generation iPhone at a low entry price, aided by the iPhone’s cachet. By targeting PR campaigns to appeal to younger consumers, who chose their own purchases, smartphone makers and networks can increase market penetration. This can be done by getting kids hooked on the notion of mobile data (probably leveraging social networking as a big attraction) and can thus bump up revenues. Design and style of phones were also strong attractors for young people, which is something Apple knows, but Android makers and Nokia should probably know better.


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