comScore “2012 Mobile Future in Focus” Report Highlights

Michael Convente February 23, 2012 0
comScore “2012 Mobile Future in Focus” Report Highlights

According to numbers released today by digital analyst firm comScore, the smartphone revolution had another banner year in 2011 with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.  In 2011 we saw the launch of numerous new smartphone models, topped of course by Apple’s iPhone 4S and Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus, and within the past month (or even days) we have seen the launch of Motorola’s Droid RAZR and Samsung’s Galaxy Note – both of which we checked out at CES 2012 this past January.  Based on the strong growth in both sales and consumer usage of smartphones, expect many more smartphones to be designed and released throughout 2012.

After another year with substantial growth (55% increase in 2011), smartphones now account for just under 42% of all mobile phones in the United States.  And importantly for smartphone manufacturers, July 2011 marked the first month that smartphones outsold feature phones in the U.S., which should lead to even more smartphone options being offered for consumers in the future.  This piece of data may be a little surprising considering how many people it seems have smartphones (and there are indeed a lot), but clearly there still is a market for feature phones, like due to their cheaper unit and plan costs.

For U.S. smartphone manufacturer marketshare, Apple leads the way again with 29.6%, but Samsung isn’t too far behind at 25.3%.  Next is LG at 20.0%, followed surprisingly by RIM, which holds 16.0% of marketshare.  For all the criticism RIM has gotten over the past year – either for lackluster devices or a shoddy and unstable network – they are still ahead of Motorola and HTC (13.3% and 14.6%, respectively).  Nokia isn’t even in the top 6 for the U.S., though they hold the top spot in several European countries.  However, with Nokia’s Lumia highly-rated smartphones coming on the horizon, the company is poised for an American comeback in 2012.  Perhaps most shocking is that RIM’s BlackBerry Curve 8530 had the 4th best sales of any smartphone in the U.S. in 2011; Apple had the top 3 with their iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 4S.

While Apple’s iOS  is still top dog when it comes to mobile OS, trends over the past two years have to be alarming for Apple.  In June 2010, RIM was the U.S. leader at just under 40%; Apple’s iOS had about 25%, and Android was a distant third at about 15%.  Looking at the trend graph over the past 18 months shows that as RIM’s marketshare dropped sharply, much of that space was filled by Android devices instead of Apple’s iOS-powered iPhones.  As of November 2011, Android is now the leading mobile OS, holding 47.3% of marketshare.    Apple has increased as well to about 30%, but it has now been overtaken by Android.  Of course, all iOS devices are Apple’s, so they’ll make all the money on sales of those devices.  However, in comparison, several companies manufacture smartphones that use Android, spreading out Apple’s competition.  Nevertheless, it’s clear that no matter what device Android is running on, consumers have been preferring those smartphones over the iPhone for the last year.

In terms of smartphone carriers, Verizon is #1 at 31.6% marketshare.  This is a gain of 3.7 percentage points compared to last year and is due to their expanded line of smartphone options, the most notable being the iPhone 4 in early 2011.  Sprint started offering the iPhone 4S in October 2011, so it will be interesting to see if they improve upon their current 10.5% marketshare in 2012.

QR codes also gained in usage during 2011, with just over 20% of all U.S. smartphone users reporting they scanned at least one QR code during 2011.  I personally have seen QR codes pop up more frequently on bus and subway billboards in my current city of Philadelphia, not to mention their increased emergence in magazines.  I did scan a few myself in 2011, but I’m still a bit surprised that the percentage of smartphone users who scanned one was as high as it is.  20% isn’t great, but it should be enough for marketers to continue including them in their advertisements.

Lastly, comScore offered up some predictions for 2012.  According to the firm, a mobile OS war is poised to begin throughout the next year as smartphone users will start to consolidate around either Android or iOS.  There will be niche pockets of resistance with RIM and Windows Mobile (which could mount an underdog challenge with the newly released Nokia Lumia smartphones), but largely the battle will be between the two major players in Android and iOS.  Tablets will become more sophisticated (as is seen with Amazon’s Kindle Fire) and more mainstream, eventually proving wrong their critics who claimed they would be a short-lived fad.  And finally, mobile shopping is poised to surge immensely in 2012.  Amazon is leading the way on this front.  The company recently redesigned its website to be much more tablet friendly, which makes sense in light of its Kindle Fire launch in Fall 2011.

According to comScore, smartphones have dominated the mobile phone market for the last several years, and 2012 looks like another spectacular year in terms of sales growth and innovation.  However, if one thing can stop the significant growth of smartphones, it’s the coming spectrum wars.  Yesterday, T-Mobile filed a request with the FCC to block Verizon’s planned $3.6 billion purchase of additional spectrum, claiming that Verizon would end up with too much of the finite resource and limit competitors from building their own LTE networks.  Could this be shaping up to be a Patent Wars 2.0 type of scenario?  Only time will tell.

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