UK Smartphone Demographics and Stats

What is the current UK landscape for smartphone penetration?

Around the end of 2012, the UK reached tipping point with over 50% smartphone penetration. Comscore data from January this year shows how that is distributed by age and income.

As with previous trends, the smartphones have the highest penetration in the 18-34 age group. However, the uptake amongst older audiences is rapid – 75% of all new handsets


Income is also a factor in smartphone ownership, although with some SIM-free smartphones at less than £100, that is now become less significant in defining the market:

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In terms of OS breakdown, Android continues to be the leader, but closely followed by the iPhone, however in terms of usage, iOS still dominates. RIM’s dwindling market share is largely lost to Google’s Android.


Smartphone Penetration and Usage Statistics

How many people have smartphones and what are they doing on them?

One of my 2012 mobile predictions was the (continued) rise of the smartphone. When a majority of people have such a powerful connected device, it changes everything for brand engagement.

I’ve created this handy chart to show where things stand across a range of countries. As there is no single data source, I’ve cobbled the information together from a variety of places. The EU5 and US are based on Comscore (Oct 2011), the others are from Google/IPSOS ( and Informa. Similar data can be found in the excellent Netsize 2011 guide.

One of the problems of using different data sources is that they are using slightly different measurements. For example, Comscore use a panel whereas the others will take data from network operators or the GSM Association. Take the UK, for example, where figures for smartphone penetration range from 46% to 53% depending on who you ask.

The chart below (using the same data sources) shows what people are doing on their devices, as a percentage of smartphone owners:

There are some key differences depending on the territory. For example (non-native)apps are much less popular in Poland, Czech Repbulic, and Turkey than the UK, Australia or the US. One key reason may simply be down to language. There are less apps in Turkish than English.

With a couple of exceptions, both mobile web and email represent the highest media use, not apps. Although some brands have begun to understand the importance of mobile optimised sites, many of them have focussed their efforts on apps. A significant oversight by brands is with email. Whilst it represents some of the greatest smartphone usage, few campaigns are optimising for it. Clearly a missed opportunity as the evidence is that where emails are optimised for mobile both read and click-through rates are significantly higher.

One interesting development is how usage has changed during the last 12 months. The chart on the right shows how apps and mobile web have grown in particular. Whilst SMS usage still remains high (the chart shows only SMS outside of peer-to-peer, such as brand marketing), it is flattening off.

Study shows the future is bleak for BlackBerry

There was a time, not that long ago, when the ONLY phone you could have in the corporate world was a BlackBerry. In the world of corporate banking, using an iPhone for work pretty much meant that you were an anarchist (although many of them had one for personal use). The perception was that BlackBerry was secure, where other phones were not. However, that perception has been slowly changing. In spite of some malware warnings (usually from security software providers) there are many tens of millions of Android and iPhones out there with little evidence of security issues.

According to a new study, BlackBerry’s recent outage will considerably damage the company, with many of their users switching to other smartphones. YouGov’s smartphone survey (SMIX) found that in September most BlackBerry users rated the company between 8 & 10 (out of 10) for satisfaction. However, following last week’s problems, the overall satisfaction dropped by a massive 8 points. This was particularly marked by the number of users who would consider buying a BlackBerry again. Just 42% of users said they would get another BlackBerry, a drop of 11% on the previous study. Another recent study by Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) found that only 16 percent were “completely satisfied” with their BlackBerries, compared to 44 percent of iPhone users.

Of course, conducting a study immediately after such a major outage will reveal customers at their least dissatisfied. RIM still retain a high level of customer loyalty and currently there is nothing that directly challenges BBM for both cost, ease of use and security. Now, if Apple were to develop a secure messaging function then maybe BlackBerry’s future then maybe the corporate world will switch to the iPhone.

More on the study here

Very cool animation from Nokia

Sometimes I wonder if Nokia will become a case study in classic business failure – their slide has been so dramatic. OK, they sell a lot of dumbphones, but when it comes to the premium smartphone market Nokia are the least-cool company out there. They’ve created the world’s largest stop frame animation using an N8.  Can a simple animation save a company? No, but it shows when they put their mind to it, they can do really cool things.

Smartphone ownership: it’s not about income, it’s about age

A rather obvious photo of an older person using a phone

A new study from YouGov in the UK has found that it is age, rather than salary that has the greatest bearing on smartphone ownership. Currently 35% of UK adults own a smartphone (depending on how you define one), yet only 14% of 55 years + have one. I previously blogged about some key UK smartphone demographics. This new research confirms that the higher end phones are concentrated in the 25-45 year old demographic. Brands often tend to assume that their audience is a smartphone one (especially where they have middle to high income), yet rarely consider consumer age groups as part of their strategy.

For the older demographic, decisions on technology are much more about the perceived benefits than technology for the sake of it. However, that does not mean they will never use smartphones. Look at what happened with the internet. When older people realised they could buy cheap flights and compare insurance costs they got online and the sliver surfer became the second biggest user demographic. When it comes to mobile, they use SMS (close to 90%). Perhaps they don’t send as many messages as the younger age groups, but they use it when it is useful. Similarly, 1/3rd of grandparents are using social media. Facebook is the biggest picture sharing site in the world, and for grandparents it offers a good way to keep up with their grandchildren.

If mobile becomes as useful as online for travel, money or photo sharing then expect to see a large uptake by the over 55s.

Another interesting finding of the study is that the current 35% saturation is up just 33% from the previous quarter. This could indicate a slow down in smartphone buying. Perhaps most people who want one, have already bought it?

Nokia Goes Meego with the N9

According to information given to Engadget, Nokia’s new flagship handset, the N9 will be based on the company’s own new OS, MeeGo. So, in spite of the fanfare over their tie-up with Microsoft’s mobile OS (by Nokia at least), it looks like the Finish handset manufacturer’s first offering outside of Symbian will be a MeeGo one. The handset shown on Engadget is a fully featured smartphone which is entirely touch screen (ie no buttons), save for the volume rocker switch, the screen is 3.9 inches and comes with an 8 megapixel wide-angle camera. Oh and it has NFC.

‘What about apps?’ I hear you ask. Well there’s the NFC enabled Angry Birds Magic for starters. Nokia have also been porting over many of the OviStore’s most successful apps, whilst social media integration comes as standard. Whilst supporting Nokia doesn’t seem particularly fashionable at the moment, it actually looks like the company has produced a decent handset with a more than reasonable OS.

The exact plans for the roll-out are as yet unknown, but rumours are that in the UK at least, the N9 will be the ‘hero’ handset for some of operators Xmas campaigns. Nokia have been loosing sales in the smartphone market in the last 12 months, largely to Android. It remains to be seen if the new MeeGo offering will provide a suitable competition to Samsung and HTC’s Android handsets.

UK Smartphone Demographics Analysed

Many people want to know what smartphones people use. It’s both interesting and for many in mobile marketing, very useful. The current figures based on information published by ICM and Comscore are as follows:

Android 13%
BlackBerry 10%
iPhone 9%
Nokia (proprietary and Symbian OS) 30%
Samsung (proprietary) 19%
Sony Ericcson (proprietary and Symbian OS) 8%
Others (HTC, LG, Motorola non-Android) 10%
Windows Mobile 1%

However, a more interesting approach is to look at who is using them the most. The following shows the top handsets and who is doing what the most:

% share of UK market Largest Gender Group Largest Age Group Largest Income Bracket Used third party Apps in the last month Used mobile Web in the last month
iPhone 9% 57% men 25-34 (33%) £30-£45k (25%) 50% 91%
BlackBerry 10% 53% women 18-24 (21%) £15-£30k (22%) 26% 80%
Android 13% 62% men 25-34 (29%) £15-£30k (30%) 37% 86%

HTC Desire: currently the most popular Android phone in the UK

Within each manufacturer the top used handsets are as follows:


iPhone 3GS  -32%
iPhone 3 -24%
iPhone 4 -21%


Curve -37%
Bold -19%


HTC Desire  -30%
Samsung Galaxy -15%

For some observers the figures are unsurprising. However it’s worth pointing out a few key facts. iPhone is a premium product so their largest demographic is in a higher income bracket than their competitors. BlackBerry has BBM. That means it has appeal to both a younger and is skewed towards women. Android (and BlackBerry) have cheaper models than the iPhone and thus appeal to lower incomes. Android also has a geekier reputation, so it tend to be more popular with men. iPhone users do the most of everything – they download more apps (nearly twice as many as BlackBerry) and browse the web more.

In the world of mobile strategy I often talk about brands being able to find their customers in the mobile landscape – figures like these demonstrate how that can be done. It seems though that mobile is more polarised than other technologies. For example, could you see if your customer base uses Toshiba laptops more than any other PC? Sure it may skew more towards one demographic more than another, but there’s no polarisation that you see in mobile.

The reason for that is simple. Mobile is more than just a choice of technology. Choices of lifestyle and identity also come into it. If you’re a teenager (especially a girl) and you don’t have a BlackBerry then you may end up out of the loop socially. If you work in the media then you probably want you colleague to see you have an iPhone. Our phones are with us all the time. Our friends and colleagues see what we use. Choices are, therefore, influenced as much by fashion as they are by functionality.

UK smartphone market share: iPhone, Android & BlackBerry

Update: click here for more stats on current UK smartphones

The latest UK handset share stats have just been released by ICM Research. They have found that Android has the largest share of smartphones at 13%, followed by BlackBerry with 10% and iPhone with 9%. Overall, smartphones have increased their share of handsets in use since last year, with RIM increasing by 4% and Apple adding 2% to their market share. The largest just though was from Android who doubled their market share against the previous year. That’s thanks largely to Samsung and HTC’s mid-range handsets. Windows measly 1% share is also thanks to those two manufacturers.

‘If Apple only have 9%, how come everyone I see (apart from teenagers) has an iPhone?’ you may be asking. There are a couple of reasons for that: first of all we know that iPhone users do more of everything than anyone else – more web browsing, more app downloading – so the chances are much higher that an iPhone user will have their device in their hand. Secondly, Apple only have 2 models on the market, with the 4 and 3gs. All of the other operating systems are represented by a much larger range of phones. That makes the iPhone the most successful single handset.

According to ICM though, the outlook for Android and BlackBerry is very good as they fill the mid-range smartphone gap very nicely. Apple in the meantime probably don’t care that much. What with the app store, they make more profit than all of the others put together.

Mobile Shopping study shows that consumers want it now …

Will customers scan barcodes? Apparently not.

… but businesses are not ready to deliver it yet.

A new study by the DMA and Empirix on consumer and business attitudes to mobile shopping has identified a significant gap. Consumers are ready for it now, but business aren’t ready. The study surveyed over 3500 consumers and 1500 businesses, many of them customer contact centres.

A couple of interesting figures came out of the report:

Much like the DMA/IAB study last year, this time most consumers want promotional offers from retail brands on their mobile. However, privacy and security were key to this. 79% said they would like promotional offers but only if the brand cannot see their personal data. This is clearly an opportunity for pull-based offers through social location, such as Facebook Deals.

The other bit of interesting data was when consumers were asked about QR codes … 32% new what it was, but had never used one and 39% didn’t know what it was. That’s over 71% of people who weren’t using them. Whilst brands are keen to push QR, it seems that consumers just don’t see the point.

From the business perspective, 75% of companies thought that implementing mobile would be at an additional cost to them. Even more significant, 89% of the companies didn’t have a mobile strategy.

Underlying all of this gap is the difference in perception between consumers and businesses. Brands are still stuck in their traditional silos: Call Centres, Digital, ATL etc and channels; sales, marketing, CRM and customer service. As consumers, we don’t work like that, and expect to communicate with brands from any device about any matter. Many people in the industry talk about the ‘single customer view’ rather than silo-ing. This is an essential step for business to make if they want to be getting the most out of mobile and social media.