Ah, the joy of new statistics! A cool new study about consumer behavior with our mobiles. Yes, increasingly the mobile phone has become a smartphone but what is it then that we do with it? I have been cautioning experts to stop calling it a 'mobile phone' (or cellphone) as voice calls are no longer the primary use of our phones, and to call it only a 'mobile'. So what is it then that we do on our mobiles? Play Angry Birds all day?
SMARTPHONES MEASURED BY USER PERCENT
So lets go to Britain, and an interesting survey by O2, one of the big four carriers (formerly the mobile arm of British Telecom the incumbent, but now owned by Telefonica of Spain). O2 Surveyed its smarpthone users and found that among smartphone users the following are the top uses, as percentage of all smartphone owners who do that. So these are the most used features or abilities of our smartphones:
1 - Taking pictures - 74%
2 - Voice calls - 71%
3 - SMS text messaging - 69%
4 - Surfing the internet - 69%
5 - Alarm clock - 64%
6 - eMail - 52%
7 - Watch - 50%
8 - Address book - 50%
9 - Social networking - 49%
10 - Diary - 39%
11 - Games - 38%
12 - TV & Films - 22%
13 - Reading ebooks - 13%
Interesting finding, very interesting (and gets even more so, with the times used, coming next, but lets look into this first). Note. The camera feature is now the most used part of our phone, ahead of all forms of communication, voice calls, SMS text messaging, eMail and social networking. Surfing the internet is used by more than two thirds of British smartphone owners and the Alarm clock, Watch, and Address Book all hit hlf of users or more. Where is gaming? Down ranked at 11th. Only two out of five smartphone owners are gamers.
What happened to SMS text messaging? This is quite dramatic, as the latest ComScore measure we had for the UK last year had 90% of UK consumers using SMS text messaging on their phones. Now a year later, out of smartphone users only 69% do so. This is of course because of OTT services like Whatsapp, iMessage, BBM, Facebook and Skype. Most of the SMS decline among smartphone users will not be quitting mobile phone messaging use, it is shifting that to more efficent messaging platforms from Twitter and Facebook to BBM and iMessage. We heard earlier this year that a third of UK mobile phone users had shifted away partially or completely from SMS to mobile messaging on OTT providers, from the survey by MyVoucherCodes in April. Still, the drop of SMS from used by 90% with all phone users last year to only 7 out of 10 users now (among smartphone users, the majority of UK phones are now smartphones) is very telling. In Britain clearly they have already witnessed 'Peak SMS' as its been seen in many of the early mobile market countries and we'll see global Peak SMS soon, within a few years.
Voice calls is another very interesting story. The Pew survey of UK total consumers last year found that 87% made voice calls. Remember this was 100% globally on all phones as recently as the early 1990s, when we could do nothing else on our phones, than make calls. Now, a year later, and focusing on smartphone users only, that percentage is down to 71%. That is quite a big drop again and follows all trends seen globally.
Now, lets move to part 2 of the findings - about our time used on the smartphone. This is very interesting, compared to the above list and gives rare insights into what we really do on mobiles:
SMARTPHONE USE MEASURED BY TIME
In terms of time, the O2 survey had 9 breakdowns of the major activites that take up a lot of time. I have aggregated them and divided into five groups: Communication, Entertainment, Web surfing, Social Networking, and Camera. Lets see how it divides by time. What do we use our smartphones when the measure is our most valuable resource - our own time?
Smartphone use by time:
1 - Entertainment (music, games, TV) - 33%
2 - Communication (voice, SMS, eMail) - 28%
3 - Web Surfing - 21%
4 - Social Networking - 15%
5 - Camera - 3%
Even thought camera comes on top as the most used feature, we don't spend much time on it per day. We occasionally see a picture and take it, occasionally show it, but it won't occupy much of our time on the device. Interesting. Very intersting. And yes, we spend more of our time on our smartphones being entertained than communicating or any kind of 'working' that might come under Web Surfing or Social Networking (obviously there will be more entertainment under both of those categories too). One third of our time spent on our phones is to be entertained. That is a great insight (well, it was something I did write back in my book M-Profits ten years ago that the entertainment part would be bigger than the information part of mobile, haha, so yes, my long-term fans have heard that or read that for more than a decade, but yes, for the late comers to the mobile industry - yes, we want to be entertained)
And the full list in descending order by minutes used per day, according to the O2 survey of UK smartphone users is this:
Web browsing 25 minutes/day
Social networking 18 minutes/day
Music 16 minutes/day
Gaming 14 minutes/day
Voice calls 12 minutes/day
eMail 11 minutes/day
SMS texting 10 minutes/day
TV and Films 9 minutes/day
Photographs 3 minutes/day
The total time we spend on our smartphones is 128 minutes per day or 2 hours and 8 minutes (on average, among UK smartphone users). That is a lot of time. That is over 13% of our total waking hours. That is one eight of our total time awake, that our smartphone is in our sight or entertaining us or providing multitasking benefits (like playing music to us while we do something else).
SMARTPHONES CANNIBALIZING OTHER TECH
If this is the UK today, smartphones today - it will be all Industrialized Countries soon (it has already happened in more advanced countries like say Singapore or Sweden etc). And yes, as we rapidly shift from dumbphones to smartphones, this is a very strong prototype of what priorities we will soon have on the phones, and how much time we use on the various features (and perhaps also why some abilities - like say the camera or screen size or clock/alarm or messaging) should be highly rated when designing the actual mobile phone handsets and their functions, mobile services and smartphone apps.
What do we do? We also shift our behavior. This was more of the rare info we got, that is mostly not measured. But yes, we have current data on what happens with mobile phone cannibalization. As I have been arguing for a decade, that mobile phones will cannibalize all that is pocketable and digital, more recently I have summarized it to this formula:
Mobile + Anything = Mobile
So initially it was a 'musicphone' now all mobile phones have music. So originallly Mobile + Music became just Mobile. Or the camera. Early on it was a curiosity and not all phones, not even all premium phones (remember early Blackberries) did not have cameras. Mobile + Camera became just Mobile. Today almost every phone has an inbuilt camera of some sorts, most have two. And so forth. Mobile plus anything becomes soon just mobile. What have we been shifting away from, as we put those hours on our smartphones? The O2 survey tells us:
Gadget Cannibalization by UK Smartphone Owners:
Alarm Clock - 54%
Wristwatch - 46%
Stand-alone camera - 39%
Laptop PC - 28%
Gaming console - 11%
TV - 6%
Books - 6%
Yeah-yeah, thank you thank you, I did promise that would happen, didn't I haha.. Yes, it is nice to see teh evidence. So half of UK smartphone owners have abandoned their alarm clock and nearly half done so with the wristwatch. These are matters that are only going to shift one way, so don't think for one moment those industries can ever return to their peak production worldwide. They now are forced to sell to ever smaller numbers (of often ever more elderly consumers too). I am not predicting Rolex to die any day soon, but the best days of Timex and Citizen are long since gone.
The stand-alone camera gets a strong showing, only 39% have shifted away totally. This also will only accelerate, as the cameras on phones keep closing the gap to the 'real' cameras. As I've reported, of the big traditional camera brands, already Minolta and Konica have quit the cameras business altogether, and of the film-makers Kodak went bankrupt - Polaroid did one better, they went bankrupt twice. It does not mean the end of cameras, Nikon and Canon still make cameras to the ever more niche premium pro and semi-pro markets. But the mass market camera is now our phone. And this is the affluent 'West' where we can afford many gadgets. In the Emerging World side of the planet (where 5 out of every 6 human beings live) there is no such affluence and abundance. There the shift to cameraphones happened long ago and the remaining stand-alone camera market is very small by comparison and shrinking fast.
The laptop PC number is also surprisingly strong, 28% of smartphone owners have quit using a laptop PC. It won't ever become 100%, the utility of a laptop is quite different from that of the smartphone but for many normal consumers who may want the laptop only to access say, Facebook, then if that is reasobably easily done on the new smartphone, why would you need to purchase another new expensive laptop. Students will need their PCs of course, many jobs need them (like me, an author haha) but as the smartphone becomes more our pocket PC, it also is of course eating into the laptop PC usage. If there ever was one stat that convinced CEOs of PC makers (HP!! or Dell!!!) or their software (Microsoft!!!!) that their future is in the hands of the smartphone market, that stat is it. Smartphone sales exceeded total PC sales (including desktops, laptops and tablet PCs) for the first time last year. And now we have smartphone usage stats saying more than a quarter of smartphone users had abandoned their laptops. This is devastating news for the PC industry (but again, we knew all this, haha, as this also is just the latest data point in a trend observed in my books and on this blog for the past decade)
There you go, great user data on our favorite gadget, the mobile. Totally in line with other data but fascinating developments and updates. I particularly love the per-minute daily use data which is quite rare to see reported.
So for those interested in more? If you liked what I wrote a decade ago and would like to see what I am promising for the near future of mobile, take a look at the Mobile Forecast 2012-2015 that I just released with 404 data points of what will happen in the next four years.