Smartphones: The New Necessity

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    Does anyone remember what life was like before cell phones? Almost makes you wonder how in the world we were able to drive to unfamiliar places without our trusty GPS app, play those addictive games, take so many glamorous “selfies” to upload on your favorite social networks and much more. Seriously, how many of us nearly would hyperventilate from separation anxiety because we’ve left our phones at home? Or worse, in a car or a cab (this just recently happened to me).

    Our cell phones have become glued to our hips. Today, they are more of a necessity than a luxury. And the numbers definitely agree with this statement.   The latest Nielsen insights tell us that 61 percent (more than three in five) of U.S. mobile phone consumers owned- not just any phone – but, a smartphones over the most recent period measured March-May 2013.  This is a 10 percent increase over the same time last year.

    Even though 53 percent of U.S. smartphone consumers use Android devices, compared to 40 percent who own iPhones, Apple remains the smartphone operating system manufacturing champ because it is the sole manufacturer of the device; while many different companies offer Android OS models and share in that 53 percent slice of the smartphone market share pie introducing – new competitors every other day, it seems.  Blackberry (3 percent), Windows (2 percent) and others (2 percent) round out the remainder of the market.

    Are you wondering who owns what?  Smartphone ownership in the Black community jumped to 69 percent, from 54 percent between 2013 and 2012.  Across all demographics, most smartphone owners in the U.S. are women, with three out of five using the devices. And, as you might imagine, ownership is highest among young folks; specifically, the 25-34-year-old Millennials with 78 percent market penetration.  Right behind them, three out of four mobile consumers between 18 -24 already own smartphones.  And, even though those of us over 35 might be behind, we’re moving up fast.  If you’ve followed my iPhone “adventures” in this column over the last couple of years, you know that even though I might have been intimidated initially, I’ve successfully overcome my technological challenges to master several generations of iPhones. I am now the owner of an iPhone 5 and I dreaded getting a new phone because that meant I had to switch over all of my chargers! However, the change has not been so bad, I’ll have to admit.

    In fact, even though smartphone penetration has been lowest among Americans 55+ the ownership numbers among these savvy consumers has almost doubled over the last year and is now at 42 percent.

    Of course, not only are smartphone owners capable of entertaining ourselves for hours on our light-weight companions, we can handle all manners of business or find the answer to nearly any question or solution to any problem.  We can also use our mobile apps to make smart economic decisions. Nielsen insights tell us that smartphone users spend 87 percent of their time using mobile apps; women slightly edge out men, with more than 28 hours versus 25 hours a month, respectively, and 13 percent of their time using the mobile web.  How’s this for thinking economically?  I was intrigued by a recent Nielsen NRG survey on movie trailers which says that 15 percent of us check out movie trailers and previews on our smartphones before we decide to spend money on tickets, up from 6  percent in 2010.  If you don’t like the preview, you don’t have to spend your money at the movie theater, which is not as cost-effective as it used to be some years ago.

    Besides talking, smartphone owners in the African-American community take full advantage of all the mobile web access and other features, more than any other demographic groups.  For example, we love to tweet and are 30 percent more likely to visit Twitter than, the average consumer, from our smartphones.  Sixty-four percent of us visited a retail site or app on our phones.  Sixty-one percent of African-American smartphone consumers read product reviews.  Fifty-seven percent researched and compared prices on our phones.  Half of us visited a shopping site or app and 38 percent of us did a bargain search for mobile coupons.

    So the next time you find yourself checking your latest social media posts on-the-go, texting, shopping or playing a game, remember that with every little “tap,” your consumer power is working.

    Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of Public Affairs and Government Relations for Nielsen. For more information and studies go to http://www.nielsenwire.com

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