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Americans more likely to buy smartphone than any other device: Gartner

February 23, 2011

Consumers in the United States are more likely to buy a smartphone in 2011 than PCs, feature phones, ereaders, media tablets and gaming products, according to a recent survey by Gartner Inc.

U.S. smartphone sales are expected to grow from 67 million units in 2010 to 95 million units in 2011. By comparison, mobile PC shipments are forecast to total 50.9 million in the U.S. in 2011, up from 45.6 million from 2010.

“Very healthy demand from the consumer side is being driven by an extremely strong replacement cycle and expansion of the category as more consumers migrate from voice-focused devices to smartphones,” said Hugues de la Vergne, principal research analyst at Gartner, Stamford, CT.

“There remains a compelling reason to upgrade devices as we continue to see producers adding features that consumers are desire and are willing to pay for,” he said. “Another key component is the decline in the total cost of ownership of devices.”

In December 2010, Gartner surveyed 1,557 mobile phone users across the U.S., China, India, Italy, Japan and Britain about the types of devices consumers are looking to buy within the next 12 months.

A total of 256 U.S. consumers participated in the survey.

Smartphone boom
Smartphones were followed by laptop computers and desktop computers in rankings of U.S. consumers’ average intent to purchase in 2011.

Mobile phones—feature phones—ranked fourth in average intent to purchase, followed by ebook readers in the fifth position and tablet computers ranking sixth.

Mr. de la Vergne said that continued low retail pricing and widespread adoption of applications such as Web browsing, email, Twitter, Facebook, GPS and games will continue to stimulate consumer demand.

In 2010, smartphones benefited from aggressive carrier device subsidies and lower-cost monthly data plans, per Gartner.

Mr. de la Vergne said that as more consumers adopt smartphones, the market will shift from the more technically astute tech savants toward less tech-savvy comfortable conformists.

Issues such as ease of use will become even more important in 2011, per Gartner.

First-time smartphone buyers may not be familiar with the range of operating systems and the different versions of those OSs.

With carriers offering generous return policies on all mobile phones, it is important that handset producers offer devices that will appeal to the less technologically advanced consumer, per Mr. de la Vergne.

Although demand is very strong at the high end of the smartphone market, Gartner analysts said that vendors should not ignore the middle and lower tiers of smartphones, which will be a source of growth in 2011 as carriers look for prepaid smartphones that require no subsidy.

Mr. de la Vergne said that communication service providers should expand tiered data pricing to make open OS devices more affordable to the mass market.

Gartner forecasts show that in the OS space, Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS will continue to gain significant share, while Research In Motion’s BlackBerry and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 will lag.

Mr. de la Vergne said that hardware/OS vendors should work to attract and keep developers so ensure a steady stream of applications for their devices/OS so consumers have a compelling reason to upgrade.

Carriers should expand tiered data pricing plans to make smartphones more affordable to the mass market.

“Introductory limited data plans of $10 to $15 a month will expand the market greatly for these devices and in many cases, consumers will upgrade to higher priced data plans over time once they get hooked on these services,” Mr. de la Vergne said.

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Dan Butcher is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach him at

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