Smartphone boa swallowing mobile phone market

A MetaFacts TUPdate by Dan Ness, Principal Analyst

Reading the popular press, it might seem that Smartphones have consumed the entire mobile phone market. In fact, the Smartphone boa has only swallowed a portion of the American calling public. Also, much of the smartphone market is a replacement market as these busy adopters hanker for newer models or churn to competitive carriers.

Furthermore, some Smartphone callers have even returned to Basic Feature Phones. This brings into question assumptions around how soon Smartphones will dominate.

In Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classic book “The Little Prince”, he draws a boa constrictor eating an elephant, which many adults mistake for a drawing of a hat. I was reminded of that image while looking at the size of mobile phone transition segments from recent Technology User Profile survey results.

Why is this important?

When you’re deep in the belly of the beast, it’s easy to imagine that the whole world is inside with you.

Realistically, Basic Feature Phone callers outnumber Smartphone users three to two. Smartphone makers and carriers have multiple challenges ahead in trying to convince the rest of the market to adopt Smartphones. Each segment of customers along the mobile phone adoption path has its own unique characteristics and needs.

While many Smartphone shipments are replacing existing Smartphones, with many eager to get the newest iPhone, Android or RIM Smartphone, these replacement markets are very different than conversions into the Smartphone world.

We found that 8% of online adults are in the “Basic Switchers” segment, which means they’re using a Basic Feature Phone after having previously tried a Smartphone. This segment is dominated by both male and female adults age 18-24. This group uses the broadest number of activities, in effect using so much of their Basic Feature phone as to rival many simple-usage Smartphone owners.

Avid mobile phone fans may be surprised that anyone would be in a segment called “Tried & Quit” – online adults who have used a Smartphone or Basic Feature Phone within the last year and not now using one. This is a small, yet measurable segment, dominated by retired or unemployed single adults who treasure simplicity. Evidently, Smartphones outsmarted them and even Basic phones were just not compelling enough.

At the other end of the curve, there’s a very interesting segment labeled “Just Smart”. These are people who have never used a Basic Feature Phone and instead have a Smartphone as their first mobile phone. These callers tend to be parents, active Best Buy shoppers, and employed full-time in larger companies. As might be expected, this group is relatively young, with over half being age 25-44. What might not be expected; this segment has a relatively low share of age 18-24 users.

In the coming year, MetaFacts expects a continued and turbulent replacement environment as carriers and mobile operating systems compete with each other for the most active Smartphone users. The majority of the market is likely to continue its relatively slower migration to Smartphones. Each segment is likely to be further splintered by user’s varied attention on other devices than “traditional” for their calls, music, ebook reading, communication, and images.


The findings in this TUPdate are drawn from the MetaFacts Technology User Profile Survey. In each wave of Technology User Profile, we survey a representative sample of respondents about their use of mobile phones, computers, technology attitudes, and many other consumer electronics products and services, behavioral and socioeconomic factors. Current TUP subscribers can access and drill down more deeply into this phenomenon using TUP Interactive Access or with their datasets.

We began the above analysis by first looking at the answers from over 8,100 respondents in the Technology User Profile service and then drilled down further into their profiles to get a more complete picture.

To see other research coverage of Internet products and activities – from smartphones to feature phones, desktops to notebooks, social networking, demographics, and attitudes – see the many other questions TUP answers on Tech market research professionals can license direct access to TUP.

Contact MetaFacts to access the MetaFacts Technology User Profile Overview Edition report, which covers the broader range of key trends. View findings in 25 pages of executive summary analysis, 200+ pages of charts and graphs, all supported by 95+ pages of detailed tables. The complete, 300+ page report is delivered to you electronically.

About TUPdates

MetaFacts releases ongoing syndicated original research on the market shifts, trends and consumer profiles for Smartphones, Netbooks, Mobile PCs, Workplace PCs, Home PCs, Web Creators, Broadband, and many other technology products and services. These TUPdates are short analytical articles in a series of specific topics utilizing the Technology User Profile Annual Edition study, which reveals the changing patterns of technology adoption around the world. Interested technology professionals can sign up at for complimentary TUPdates – periodic snapshots of technology markets.

About MetaFacts

MetaFacts helps technology marketers find and measure their best and future customers. MetaFacts’ Technology User Profile (TUP) survey is the longest-running, large-scale comprehensive study of its kind, conducted continuously since 1983, the year before Apple released the Apple Macintosh. The detailed results are a primary market sizing and segmentation resource for leading companies providing consumer-oriented technology products and services, such as PCs, printers, software applications, peripherals, consumer electronics, mobile computing, and related services and products. TUP analyzes key trends and the data-rich source can be dived into more deeply for custom analysis. For more information about the syndicated research service, analysis tools, publications and datasets, contact MetaFacts at 1-760-635-4300.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Market Segmentation, TUP 2011, TUPdate

Comments are closed.