Nielsen: Nearly 60 percent of all new cell phones sold are smartphones

Tablets have found success by expanding upon the potential media and mobile uses beyond the capabilities of smartphones, according to Nielsen analysts.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

Nearly half of all cell phone users own smartphones, according to global research firm Nielsen. About 60 percent of all new devices being sold are also smartphones.

"We should appreciate the scale and speed of all this taking place," said Jonathan Carson, general manager of Digital at Nielsen. Carson informed the audience at GigaOM's Mobilize conference in San Francisco on Monday morning that the industry is definitely out of the early adopter phase and into the mainstream arena.

"The level of familiarity and usage is growing," said Phil Hendrix, director of research and consulting firm immr and an analyst for GigaOM Pro, "It's not universal yet." Hendrix added that there are still some hurdles to consumers and providers alike, including handing sensitive data and infrastructure issues. Using NFC technology as an example, Hendrix argued that these features are being added to more devices, but it will take some time for the corollary in stores to grow and meet demand.

Recalling on some of Nielsen's more recent surveys, Carson noted that among those choosing a new smarpthone, 56 percent selected an Android device. However, iOS still shouldn't be slighted at only 28 percent as it has done quite well in the last three months and hasn't seen a decline in the market share. Approximately five percent have opted for a BlackBerry and the remaining six percent went with other operating systems.

Additionally, the top 50 Android apps in the Android Market take up 65 percent of an Android user's time spent on apps. However, Carson warned that we shouldn't get the idea that this is a stable space dominated by the largest media companies as there is usually a tremendous change over the course of three months. At least one in five apps in the top 50 in July were not in the top 50 the following month.

Some of the more profound findings deal with the mobile benefits surrounding smartphones and tablets.

"Mobile introduces a concept of 'always on, always with you' media consumption," Carson said. Smartphone usage was found to stable and strong throughout most daytime hours, with a dip in the primetime segment.

However, tablets have found a place in the mobile market by improving upon smartphone features. Carson posited that one of the reasons that the tablets have grown into such a vibrant category is that users are finding so many different ways to make use of their tablets.

"When tablets were first released, there were a lot of questions about how this category would work," Carson said. Questions ranged from asking if tablets were just expensive e-readers to smartphones with bigger screens. The answer, Carson affirmed, is yes to these things and more.

Tablets do quite well within the categories that smartphones do very well, such as reading up on news, streaming radio, and sports. But tablets are becoming the preferred device for accessing high-grade content categories such as books, magazines, TV shows and movies.

But tablets don't always have consumers' undivided attention. The survey revealed that tablet owners spend at least 23 percent toggling between the tablet and watching TV at least several times a day.

Rather than trying to lure consumers away from one or the other, Carson suggested that there is an opportunity here for advertisers to present more of a surrounded environment for their audience.

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