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5 Smartphone Usage Trends for 2012 and Beyond

by Chris Curran on January 19, 2012 [email] [twitter]

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My PwC colleagues studying consumer intelligence recently conducted a survey of 3,283 smartphone users to find out how they plan to use their devices in the next couple of years. In many ways, smartphone users will grow increasingly reliant on their devices, but their concerns over privacy, security and convenience will keep them from ditching their desktops all together. “The Speed of Life” dives deep into the data to surface the next wave of trends in smartphone usage and explains how businesses can gain an edge by giving smartphone users what they want. Following are some of the highlights.

Basic Communication to Double

While 98% of smartphone owners already use their devices for voice, texting and email, 46% anticipate that they will increase their usage rates for these basic communication services over the next two years. In fact, 21% expect they will at least double their use of their smartphone for basic communication activities. Accessing the internet, checking email and using social networks will drive this trend.

Consumers to Buy-in to Buying, with a Caveat

Currently, only 12% of users purchase merchandise with their smartphones. However, 45% anticipate they will increase this activity in the next two years, with more than a third of consumers (16%) expecting to at least double the time spent on this activity. However, the research also shows that consumers are concerned about the safety of shopping from their smartphones. They also complain that screens are too small and they clamor for a “virtual wallet” to make the process less cumbersome.

Consumers to Leap into Location-Based Services

Smartphones are moving beyond the ability to simply provide directions. Apps like Yelp!, Fandango and Urbanspoon recommend where to go and what to do. More than half of users-56%-use their devices at least weekly to find locations. Over the next two years, 53% of smartphone consumers believe they will increase their use of location-based services.

Gender, Age and Early Adopter Trends to Change and Remain the Same

In some cases, activities will remain specific to gender. Men will continue to use their smartphones to check news, weather and sports. Meanwhile, women will continue to access social networks. Young adults, 18-24, will upload video and manage their finances. However, baby boomers will jump on the bandwagon of downloading video. And, using mobile video conferencing, connecting to a TV/PC and use of a DVR remote will broaden beyond early adopters.

Users will Continue to Favor Apps Over Browsers

Smartphone users have access to hundreds of thousands of apps. With all this possibility in the palms of their hands, they will continue to choose apps over browsers in 2012 and beyond.

Companies that don’t capture the smartphone market will be at a competitive disadvantage. To effectively take advantage of the smartphone surge, consider the following three things:

1. Make it Easy and Secure

Consumers want to use their phones to make purchases, book travel and manage their finances, but they are concerned about security and privacy and they find the current apps to be cumbersome. Make these activities easy and safe to gain an edge over the competition.

2. Leverage Location-based Services

Location-based information, user recommendations and word-of-mouth are driving consumer behavior. Create strategies that will boost recommendations through “check-ins” and positive customer comments.

3. Integrate Mobile Apps into the Broader Online, Multi-Screen Mix

Multiples screens are becoming the new normal. Make smartphone apps that facilitate seamless transitions between browsers and apps to reduce complexity for customers and increase convenience. With an HTML5 app, companies can have cross platform portability for any supporting browser versus developing for each platform.

Clearly smartphones are here to stay, but how they are used will continue to change over time. The challenge for companies will be to listen to what consumers and employees say they want from their smartphones and align their investments accordingly. What are your predictions for how consumers will use smartphones in the coming year and do you have plans to accommodate them?

Image supplied by philcampbell

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  • Matt Ballantine

    I’m fascinated by the psychology as to why people have security concerns about using their smartphones for purchasing. Is this greater than concerns about general e-commerce?

    Because a mobile device is probably more identified to an individual (IMEI, billing relationships, etc) than a browser on a PC, it could in many ways be seen as being more secure (my bank, RBS, certainly thinks so given their approach to Web banking security in comparison to mobile. But, of course, perception is everything here.

    Also makes one wonder about how people will feel about NFC and payment systems going forward…

  • Christopher B Curran

    From LinkedIn Group Discussion:

    Tonya Brown, MBA, A+, MCSE •

    Smartphones will continue to be used to check
    email, to Facebook, Tweet, to text, to view videos, photos, podcasts,
    Skype etc. However, I do believe that the amount of usage will drop as
    more and more consumers consume iPads and Tablets. The larger UI allows
    for longer usage and eye strain can force some to transfer to using
    tablets that are typically 7 to 10 inches. I use my iPhone and iPad
    interchangeably. In fact I am able to sync across them using cloud
    technology. So as a consumer of mobile devices I believe that consumers
    won’t become more creative with smartphone technology as they will with
    tablet pcs, but they will continue to remain loyal to the devices. I do
    see business and corporates becoming more creative and innovative with
    the technology of course.

    It will be interesting to read and discuss new findings as time goes on.

  • Warrior CIO

    I’m surprised for the clamor of a virtual wallet. With Zappos being the latest high profile company to get hit with a data breach. I would think that people would want less virtual wallets and not more. I frequently use my Amazon app on phone and tablet to shop, and am dreading the day when Amazon sends me a “Sorry to inform you…” e-mail.


  • Andrew Holden

    Thanks for this great study.  At Weever App ( we’re developing cross-platform apps almost exactly along these parameters, with the other side of the equation (the developer / cost question) emphasized as well.

    I’m also familiar with a Canadian startup called “SnapPay” (formerly GroupStore) that is addressing the eCommerce/security question.  Unlike most mobile eCommerce methods, the transaction happens on the user’s phone, which seems to be really alleviate the security fear-psychology risks.

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