Tuesday 24 April 2018

How Americans Use Their Smartphones: What’s Happening?

As the world goes “wireless,” more Americans are turning to their mobile phones as the primary device used to communicate, shop and discover the world around them. I don’t know too many folks who would disagree that we have become dependent on mobile technology to make it through our day, traverse across town, searching for the love of life and lifestyle fulfillment. At the same time, I don’t know that I’ve ever sat in a room full of mobile “experts” who agree on the direction of growth trends and behavioral usage of smartphones and tablets.

Enter the good folks at Edison Research and Arbitron, who were generous in sharing with me an advance copy of The Smartphone Consumer 2012, data resulting from a wonderful sampling of questions posed via telephone in English and Spanish to 2020 Americans, aged 12 years-plus. Oh boy, this data tells a story, and here are a few highlights with commentary for your enjoyment:

Half of [US] Cell Phone Owners Have a Smartphone

This has been substantiated and qualified by a number of research firms and analysts as the true tipping point for smartphone usage in the US. Businesses are far from prepared for the 2/5 of customers who seldom go anywhere without a pocket computer that is (almost) always connected to the Internet. Even less are they prepared for a workforce that expects the same efficiencies found on an iPhone to be at arm’s length while seated at a desk. Frustrations are sure to mount, as EVERYTHING must be made easier as our devices become “smart.”

Nearly One-Third of Smartphone Owners Purchased Their First Smartphone in the Last 12 Months

It is not just that we are awash in a landslide of adoption, but that it’s a very muddy one at that. As the price of the device planes out and all-you-can-eat data plans are still sub $100/month, those marketers who are investing heavily in native Android and iOS (Apple) applications and systems cannot be confident in that landscape being the status quo. The study shows that while 22% of the smarties are Android, 17% are iPhone and 16% of the market belongs to (8% each) Blackberry* and Windows operating system devices. Think about those numbers when iPhone had just 9% this time last year…many an American whose two-year carrier contract is expiring today walks into the phone store, past the iPhone display and/or is not crazy about Google seeing everything she or he does on this most personal of devices. This is far from a two-horse contest, race fans.

I often quip that smartphones are the “personal information kiosks” where consumers search for answers and information they need right now. A few other telling answers to this question are: 1) yes, we do use the internet in our pocket more than apps or social media; 2) a challenging game or one that flexes our creativity helps pass the time as well as anything; and, 3) our voice calls and text messaging dominate our time on the device. Do you have a mobile-friendly website? Do you offer “click-to-call” buttons on your most popularly searched landing pages? If the answer is “no” to either one or both of those questions…fix it, tomorrow, and do not pass “go.”

Nearly Eight in Ten Smartphone Owners with a Facebook Profile Access it Through Their Phones

It is yesterday’s news that Facebook has a challenge in monetizing the mobile audience. What’s compelling is that more (51%) of that audience accesses the social network via their phone than (45%) those who access it via computer or laptop. 4% of smartphone owners access Facebook from their tablet, and I’m sure that’s because when it comes to the “lean back” experience of tablets we are more often reading or shopping, not communicating or socializing. More on that observation on this blog soon, I promise.

Half of Smartphone Owners Use Voice Commands on Their Phone

While the frequency of using Voice Actions for Android or iPhone’s SIRI is still not highly consistent in everyday use, this points to a larger reality I’ve had my eye on since we started the move from QWERTY keyboards to a touchscreen input method on mobile devices. Humans are not wired to type or read text on small illuminated screens; rather, we are programmed to have a voice and use it to communicate. How often do you mouth the words to those you type? Just wait, we are less than five years from when our cameras and voices become the dominant way we share stories in social media and engage in peer-to-peer communications…and it will feel so very natural, humans.

Smartphone Owners are Heavy YouTube Users

It is logical to think that the consumer who can afford to “adopt” a smartphone and its accompanying technology is of the same market segment that first had broadband connectivity in their home. However, there is another natural progression found here: the “untethered” (liberated from desk and computer screen) consumer is also becoming more tuned for face-to-face and animated experiences in the offline world. This will increasingly cause consumers to search for visual experiences that communicate to them in a similar way, video especially.

Check it out for yourself –

I’ve only brought to you here a few of those observations I find most intriguing with this study. There is a game changing phenomenon happening today with the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, and it extends further and more pervasive than anything since the Internet first blew our info-greedy minds. I encourage all marketers, communications and technology professionals to be diligent in rationalizing anything you read about the mobile revolution, and I believe this is one of the most telling collections of data you will find anywhere.  Go, now, over to the Edison Research website, where you can find the answers to all 40 questions included in The Smartphone Consumer 2012 study.

Once you have, please let me know here your own insights. What do you see in this data?

*Blackberry is an Edelman client

Image credit: magnusfranklin

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