We have become a mobile planet. No matter your preference— IOS or Android, large screen or small —most of us rely upon our smartphone as a key component in our daily personal and work lives. Understanding its media impact and penetration is essential for marketers of all shapes and sizes, especially the entertainment industry. The following two-part article begins with a smartphone overview and perspective. Part two introduces actionable data about the platforms, hardware, software and how we use them.
The Apple iPhone was introduced to mainstream America on Jan. 9, 2007. It was that rare, eye-opening product whose launch was so profound it created a new device category. Fast forward six and a half years and close to 50% of the U.S. population owns a smartphone. There are now two main smartphone operating systems, each with their own proprietary app ecosystems—Apple’s IOS and Google’s Android. Each has its fans, but they are both extremely capable and offer a connected experience that was undreamed of even a short decade ago.
The smartphone has introduced many concepts, but particularly striking is the fact that connectivity is a two-way street. Being able to communicate on the go, means you can also be contacted on the go which has created for many users a 24/7, “always-on” experience and blurred the lines between work and personal time. Connectivity has also re-defined our concept of personal privacy. While these handsets are delivering data to us, they are also sending information back to massive marketing databases about who we are, what we like and how we act.
Social media networks such as MySpace (May, 2003), LinkedIn (Aug., 2003) and Facebook (Feb., 2004) arrived pre-smartphone, but mobile greatly accelerated their adoption and interaction. The “new” device is also impacting the entertainment industry as it leads people from a file economy to streaming. The iPod created a market for digital downloads. But the smartphone matched the iPod experience, plus introduced the ability to stream music from the cloud and chat with your friends making the iPod obsolete. As mobile bandwidth speeds increase smartphones are funneling the delivery of all media—radio, tv, music and more, through the Internet’s digital gateway.
Bandwidth, however, continues to be the limiting factor for this device category. The first iPhone ran using AT&T’s sluggish Edge network. Upgrades arrived in the form of 3G and more recently 4G LTE. Each increase has been welcome, but delivering blinding speed and a ubiquitous (no dead zones) experience remains the wireless industry’s biggest challenge.
Sometimes the next big thing is already here. The Phablet, an oversize smartphone described as having a screen larger than 5” but less than 7”, shocked many users when it was first introduced. The idea of holding such a big device up to ones ear to talk looked strange. But for business usage, the Phablet may ultimately replace the phone and the tablet which would mean having one less device to manage. According to IHS, 25.6 million Phablets were sold worldwide in 2012 and they forecast over 60 million in sales for 2013.
Hardware and software will continue to evolve and take new forms such as the Phablet, Google’s new Glasses or Samsung’s Galaxy Gear watch because one size does not fit everyone’s needs. Smartphones will also adopt added functions such as purchasing/payment capabilities.
According to a Flurry report, “The rate of IOS and Android device adoption has surpassed that of any consumer technology in history. It’s being adopted 10X faster than that of the ‘80s PC revolution, 2X faster than that of ‘90s Internet Boom and 3X faster than that of recent social network adoption.”
To jump to part two of this report, click here.