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The rise and rise of smartphones

  • Two-thirds of new phone buyers pick a smartphone
  • The rise of smartphones internationally
  • How smartphones are transforming the way we shop
Written by Mikaella Clements

Recent studies in America have shown that two thirds of new mobile buyers are now choosing a smartphone.

Smartphone power

The new report from Nielsen showed that two of every three Americans who bought new mobile phones in the past three months went for a smartphone rather than a standard feature phone. This shows a 5 per cent increase in the number of smartphone users in the US since March of this year – a big increase in only three months!

It's a movement that is reflected here in Australia, too, as the number of smartphone users climbs steadily. At this time last year, 37% of Australian mobile users were on smartphones; now, the number is moving rapidly up over the halfway point, with 52 per cent of the population now owning a smartphone – more than a 40 per cent jump since May last year.

Looking at the latest results from the US can shed some information both on the ways Australia is similar and the way it differs.

In the US, Android holds the lead in terms of popularity of operating systems, with 51.8 per cent of smartphone owners using an Android OS handset. However, it's important to remember that the Android OS system is shared amongst hundreds of phones from many different brands, as compared to the next staggering figure: 34.3 per cent of smartphone users use an Apple iPhone. That's over a third of the market dedicated to one phone and one brand.

(Obviously there are different models of iPhone, but a huge part of Apple's success story has been in their ability to make one phone and make it well. Their models improve on themselves without changing the essential nature of the phone, and thus setting an impressive example for other providers who think quantity is quality.)

As well as this, Apple is still the US's leading phone manufacturer, holding onto 34 per cent of the market versus Samsung coming in second place on 17 per cent. Worldwide, however, we've seen Samsung moving ahead of Apple in terms of popularity, on 29.1 per cent versus Apple's 24.2 per cent for the first quarter of this year.

Worldwide, figures aren't quite at that two-out-of-three mark yet for smartphones, but we've definitely seen a big jump. Of the estimated 5 billion mobile phones in the world, 1.08 billion of them are thought to be smartphones. When you're talking about the entire population's choice of phone, one out of five is a huge number.

The smartphone revolution isn't in just the sheer numbers, though. Smartphone users use their phones more frequently and for more purposes than feature phone users do, and they're changing the way we interact with the world, whether it's in the way we work, communicate, play, or even shop.

94 per cent of Australians surveyed said they'd researched a product or service on their smartphone, and 28 per cent said they had purchased a product via mobile. The "researched" point is an important one: how many times have you seen an advertisement for a product while out and about, whether on public transport or just walking somewhere, and thought that looks interesting, I'll check it out later, and then totally failed to look it up?

If you're a smartphone user, chances are that didn't happen. The smartphone gives you instant access to the internet, meaning that you can investigate right away and potentially purchase the product as well. This means that advertisers are going to shift the way they appeal to potential customers; indeed, the way we approach the world as consumers and as people engaged in society is about to radically shift, with smartphones at the helm.

As well as this, the fact that a smartphone user rarely has their phone very far away from hand means that smartphone users are also multi-taskers. Four out of five smartphone users said that they used their phone whilst doing other things, like watching TV (48 per cent) or reading newspapers or magazines (18 per cent). More than half of them admitted to actively looking up a product on their smartphone after seeing the ad for the product on TV. This means that the chances for advertisers to reach consumers are multiplying along with Australia's smartphone usage.

Whether it's the ability to look up a band on YouTube when you see the poster advertising their one-off show that night, or the chance to log on and check out a cause when you drive by a protest, smartphones are making it easier to engage in the world around us. However, this boom in possibilities and chances comes with a warning – if you're not willing to join in, you may just fall behind.

Recent research has shown that 79 per cent of local businesses in Australia don't have mobile-optimised websites, making them near impossible to navigate on a smartphone. Google's research has shown that 61 per cent of mobile users surveyed said that they were unlikely to return to a site that they had trouble accessing from their phone. 

It's clear that in the smartphone world, these businesses will have to get on board in order to survive against more internet-savvy competitors. Smartphone growth shows no sign of slowing down, and in fact with the introduction of LTE technology (expected to come along with the new iPhone), we may see smartphones becoming the beginning and end of Australian consumer technology, serving as both investigator and wallet for the Australian consumer.

But smartphones are useful for so much more than just consumerism. If you haven't bought one yet, you're sure to be delighted with the breadth of possibilities a smartphone offers, both for communicating, acting creatively (through photograph and apps), having fun, and sheer usefulness (banking and map apps are particularly important to us here at Compare Mobile Plans!). It's an exciting time in the mobile phone industry, and one that is sure to get even more exciting in the inevitable and somewhat hysterical build up to the latest iPhone.

The latest rumours have an iPhone release predicted for early August. Everyone hang onto your seats – the best new plans, prices, and tech-geek excitement is about to lift off yet again.

Looking to join the smartphone world? Take a look at some of Australia's favourite smartphones: the Apple iPhone 4S 16GB, the HTC One X, or, to try something different, the brand new Samsung Galaxy SIII. Or give us a call on 1300 850 518 and we'll be happy to help you find the best phone and plan for you.

p.s. dear Adam, I'm sorry about the headline of this article.


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