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The UK Smartphone market needs a re-launch as penetration stalls

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YouGov Smartphone Mobile Internet Experience (SMIX) research reveals that incidence of smartphone ownership has stalled, remaining virtually unchanged in the past six months with just over a third of UK adults (35%) using a smartphone. In the previous quarter this was in the same area at 33%.

Despite smartphone costs being typically higher than that of a traditional mobile phone, YouGov’s research shows that it is not income that drives take up, but rather gender and age that acts as a barrier. Only 14% of smartphone owners are over 55 whilst almost a half of non-smartphone owners (48%) are over the age of 55. Only 41% of smartphone owners are women.

Russell Feldman, Associate Director for Technology and Telecoms Consulting at YouGov commented on the findings: “The challenge for the industry is to better explain the benefits of smartphone ownership to current rejecters, notably older age groups and women. This is an online survey and respondents are typically regular internet users but many haven’t taken the step to accessing the internet on their mobile phones”.

However, some smartphone brands are better than others in selling to women. For example, a half of BlackBerry sales made to adults are to women. Apple and Samsung also beat the industry average. At the other end of the scale, HTC and Nokia are brands that appeal significantly more to men than women.

YouGov believes that the industry is missing an opportunity. Russell Feldman continues, “Apple has achieved buoyant iPad sales with women and older age consumers, not traditionally considered as groups behind the technology adoption curve .However, Apple has highlighted that a tech product can achieve high take up with any demographic if the proposition resonates with them. Smartphone brands and retailers need to focus more on these groups, otherwise going forward, they will be dependent on selling new smartphones to existing smartphone owners looking to upgrade”.

There is some positive news for the industry though as amongst those standard phone owners, a third (34%) want to get a smartphone next time they can upgrade/purchase, and of these, nearly a quarter (24%) are 55+ and 48% are female. However, the industry needs to learn to transform these groups from intenders to actual purchasers. Retailers, handset manufacturers, and operators alike need to ensure that marketing and sales activities educate in order to promote smartphone take up..

YouGov’s SMIX study tracks consumer experience of smartphones, mobile internet and applications, quarterly. The next wave of the tracker begins in September with a report due in October 2011.
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