September 25, 2012

Teenagers & Smartphones

by Hisham Isa, Vice President (Marketing)

Teens and smartphones are in the news.

Nielsen recently reported that more than half of all teenagers, aged 13 - 17, in the United States now owns a smartphone.

Globally, across the BuzzCity Network, we find that 1 in 3 teens uses a smartphone . . . not quite as many teens as adults, but still a significant number.

A big question though is . . . where are they getting them?

Some tech writers speculate that the handsets are used:

"It could be that parents are feeling more generous, but far more likely that they're simply handing their old phones down to their kids -- a lot like the family car"
As parents upgrade to a new iPhone or Android phone, they give their old handsets to their kids - often placing them on a family data plan at the same time.

While this is probably true to an extent, at BuzzCity we think that falling handset costs are a more likely cause.

BlackBerry is the handset of choice among teenagers, probably because of its built in IM feature, and most teens use the BB Curve 8520. It retails now for about US$230 and less than that online (US$150).

Which smartphones do teens use?
22 %
Symbian (Nokia)
8.3 %
Android (about half of these are Samsung)
2.4 %
0.5 %
Bada (Samsung)
0.2 %


Meanwhile, there is also a large market for refurbished handsets of all makes. A quick search online shows that in the UK you can buy a used BB 8310 Curve for £31 (US$50) and in Germany a RIM 9300 Handy for just 14 euros (US$18).

Among the Nokia smartphones, meanwhile, 99% are older models, some from as far back as 2004. The price of Android and Bada phones has fallen as well, so a number of these could be new sets. In India, for example, a touchscreen 3G Samsung Wave Y S5380 sells online for INR7400 (less than US$140).

The increased usage of smartphones by teenagers is in line with a global trend. Across the BuzzCity network, 45% of our users overall are now using smartphones. For teens, in particular, smartphone usage is near 100% in the UK and tops 50% in at least eight markets:

United Kingdom
97 %
United Arab Emirates
90 %
Saudi Arabia
81 %
65 %
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
56 %
United States
53 %
50 %
50 %
40 %
39 %
33 %

And perhaps to no one's surprise, teens primarily use their phones for social networking, games, music and videos. They also spend a lot of time surfing the mobile internet from home. 

Teens use their phones to . . . .
Communicate with friends
(social networking, chat, etc.)
59 %
Entertainment (music, videos)
35 %
25 %
Percentage of teens who surf from home
61 %

Not quite two years ago -- in the fourth quarter of 2010 -- the mobile industry hit a major milestone when smartphones outsold computers. At the moment, feature phones still account for two-thirds of the handset market, but their days on top are numbered. It won't be long until smartphones are ubiquitous the world round.