European consumers have been faster to adopt 'smart' mobile phones than their American counterparts, according to Telephia, the world's largest provider of syndicated consumer research to the telecom and mobile media markets. In Q3 2006, smartphone penetration in Western Europe was 8.8 percent among recent device buyers; more than double that of the U.S. which was 3.8 percent. A smartphone is a class of handsets with a mobile operating system such as Symbian, Microsoft OS, RIM or Palm.
Telephia's European Subscriber and Device Report highlights significant differences between European countries. Italy has been at the forefront of driving mobile development and penetration in Europe and is also leading the adoption of smartphones by far. More than 95 percent of all Italians own a mobile phone and almost one in five buyers of new phones in the last six months (19.2%) bought smartphones (see Table 1). Recent phone buyers in Spain and the UK are also choosing smartphones with penetration rates of 9.5 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively. France trails with 3.5 percent of recent phone buyers upgrading to smartphones. This is only slightly less than the U.S. where the proportion of these devices among recent buyers was 3.8 percent in Q3.
"High speed networks like 3G were available earlier in Europe than in the USA. To get the best out of these faster networks, mobile consumers were motivated to purchase more advanced devices like smartphones which provided a better experience with data applications," said Reza Chady, Telephia's Managing Director for Europe. "On a country-by-country level, it's not a surprise to see Italy lead in smartphone adoption, as Italians consistently spend the most on devices and data usage as compared to the other European countries. Moreover, Italian Internet penetration is less than the UK or Germany for example and smartphone devices with advanced capabilities provide an excellent opportunity for content owners to entice Italians accessing the Web using their phone."
Table 1: Penetration of Smartphones in Europe and the U.S. Among Recent Phone Buyers
Italy 19.2%, Spain 9.5%, UK 7.5%, Sweden 3.6%, Germany 4.9%, France 3.5%, USA 3.8%
Source: Telephia European Subscriber and Device Report, Q3 2006
*Note: Includes France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom
European smartphone consumer demographic moving towards mainstream
A new wave of stylish and sleek smartphones launched recently in Europe and the USA is positioning the market to move beyond the traditional business-user niche. Telephia data shows that shift is already happening in Europe. Young professionals in Europe aged 25-34 were the largest group of smartphone owners in Q3 2006, followed by 35-44 year olds. Young professionals accounted for 27 percent of all mobile users, but posted a higher penetration rate of 34 percent among smartphone users. However, the gap has closed between smartphone and the general mobile user profile among all other age groups in the latest quarter. In addition, the proportion of women smartphone owners is increasing although they currently still seem to be predominantly owned by men in most countries.
"Devices like the Blackberry Pearl, Sony Ericsson's P990i or Nokia's E61 in Europe and Moto Q and Palm Treo 680 in the USA represent a breed of smartphones that are designed to cater to the mainstream mobile user-touting, consumer friendly features like music players and cameras, while maintaining the software applications and other functionality championed by business users," added Chady.