Top 10 Consumer Trends for 2012: Smartphone Universe

Displacing computers worldwide, in 2012, smartphones are reaching out to the lower end of the mass market so expect apps to reflect this.

This piece is the seventh in a weekly series of consumer comments exploring each of the trends Euromonitor International identified in the recent Top 10 Trends for 2012 article.

Worldwide, smartphones are the communications accessory of choice, including in emerging markets where consumers are taking up new, more basic models as this prop moves from being a luxury item to a necessary lifestyle aid. According to Euromonitor International data, annual smartphone sales surged from US$7.9 billion to US$83.3 billion between 2005 and 2010, with China surpassing the USA as the largest national market during 2009. Real global smartphone sales are forecast to reach US$137.4 billion in 2012. For many developed market consumers, PCs and laptops are beginning to take a backseat as most smartphone owners use these convenient devices to surf the internet and watch TV anywhere from parliaments to buses. New aids such as Hive Dock, designed to assist elderly people with visual impairments to use smartphones will expand the population of smartphone users still more. 2012 will see more consumers using their smartphones to make transactions, using mobile, cashless technologies from Near Field Communication to QR codes to personal card readers.

Smartphones as indispensable accessory

For more consumers, the smartphone is the technological equivalent of a Swiss Army knife. It represents a perfect example of the convergent digital device – absorbing common portable device functions like video and email as well as simple things like time keeping. With its key internet access feature, its function as information hub and checker, communicator and increasingly digital purse is assured.

Euromonitor International’s Annual Study 2011 confirms the centrality of smartphones to the lives of consumers in the following findings:

  • Mobile phones were used to buy an item or service at least once per month by 30% of online respondents;
  • As many as 33% of Chinese respondents make a purchase using a mobile phone at least once per week, compared to just 6-7% of respondents in France, Germany and Japan;
  • 33% of respondents compare prices in store with a phone at least once a month, while 30% make purchases with a mobile. China had the highest share of respondents who compare prices in-store at least once per week, at 39%, while 43% read reviews on their mobile phones.

Shrugging off fears of a “surveillance society,” a growing number of smartphone-owning consumers are utilising the tracking capabilities of these devices to do everything from gaming and staying in touch with friends to keeping tabs on their children and availing themselves of discounts in shops. “If you do not have apps on your mobile you live in the last decade,” says a young blogger from New York. A July 2011 survey by location-based technology company Telenav found 50% of respondents claimed they would give up such pleasures as coffee or sports and 10% would prefer to go without shoes rather than do without their smartphones. Young people are now so addicted to their mobile phones it feels like they have lost a limb when they are without them, a report published by the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda has found.

Smartphones are so addictive that many users now hear “phantom vibrations” because they are desperate to receive new messages, and are obsessive about checking their emails and social networking sites an academic study from the University of Worcester has found. There’s even a new condition ‘text neck’ caused by the time users spend hunched over mobiles and tablet screens.

Real Retail Sales of Smartphones by World Region: 2010-2015

ScreenHunter_04 May. 14 10.25

Source: Euromonitor International from trade sources/national statistics

Note: 2011-2015 data is forecast. Smartphones Retail Value RSP Data is in constant 2010 prices (fixed 2010 exchange rates)

Smartphones as bargain hunters and shopping aids

Consumers are enjoying instant purchasing, downloadable coupons and viewing consumer reviews via their mobiles made easier by the development of QR codes that can be scanned by smartphones.

Increased smartphone use is leading to greater consumer interest in location-based deals. US-based app developer, ThinkNear, aims to boost shopping during slow trading hours and bad weather merging this data to produce discount coupons sent to nearby consumers’ mobile devices. Óscar Fernandez, of the Mobile Marketing Association in Spain, confirms that more people are noticing the location-based information about offers available through their smartphones when they go out.

Smartphones and emerging market consumers

Smartphones will make significant inroads into the lower end of the mass market – the so-called base of the pyramid. Huawei’s sub-$100 Android smartphone has already had success in Kenya, and major manufacturers are following suit across Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America and India. These smartphones are basic versions of their more costly and feature-packed forbears. However, they allow an eager population to discover smartphones and apps for the first time – a population filled with experimenters and developers who will unleash new apps that address their own needs.

While only a tiny minority of Nigerians has internet access at home, the number of internet users in the country has soared. According to Euromonitor International data, just 9.3% of Nigerian households had an internet-enabled computer in 2011, up from 2.7% in 2006, but the number of internet users grew by 665.7% over the same period.

About Euromonitor International’s Annual Study, Global Youth Survey and Quick Pulse Surveys

Euromonitor International’s Annual Study surveyed 16,000 consumers of all ages (15-65+) in eight mature and developing markets in July and August 2011, questioning respondents on the following themes: health and wellness, food and drink, technology, shopping and leisure, personal traits and values.

Euromonitor International’s Global Youth Survey reached out to young consumers living in 15 countries with the largest and fastest-growing youth populations. Fielded August-September 2011, the survey questioned 16-24 year olds on the following themes: financial expenditure, food and drink, technology, leisure activities, personal traits and values.

In Quick Pulse surveys, Passport Survey reaches out to Euromonitor’s network of in-country analysts and in-house researchers around the world in order to find out more about current consumer attitudes and habits on a wide variety of topics, from economic outlook to daily activities.

Note: Euromonitor surveys are online surveys; all respondents are drawn from the online population in any given country, not its population as a whole. This means that in emerging markets, respondents tend to be more educated, affluent and urban.