Handset Preferences Influenced by Age, Income Factors
Published on: 5th March 2008
A U.S. television advertisement for Verizon Wireless shows a middle-aged man expressing dissatisfaction with the style and functionality of his new mobile-handset - a gaudy model selected for him by his teenage daughter.
"E-mail? Who said anything about e-mail, Daddy? Your phone is HOT!" his daughter assures him as he listens to her incredulously through a pink, sequined handset.
"Indeed, consumer preferences for mobile handsets vary widely and are heavily influenced by demographic factors, particularly age and income," said Greg Sheppard, chief development officer for iSuppli Corp.
"As handsets and their users become increasingly sophisticated, these consumer preferences are emerging as a paramount consideration for companies attempting to address the market. Mobile-phone makers and wireless operators that can successfully gauge and capitalize on user preferences are likely to be the most successful players in the future mobile-handset market."
In order to develop a clearer picture of user preferences, iSuppli's ConsumerTrak service has been conducting a monthly survey of randomly selected consumers from a continuously refreshed pool of more than 2 million U.S. residents. The results of the most recent survey, conducted in February revealed just how much mobile-phone preferences can vary by demographic group.
Handset generation gap
The disparity of opinion between younger and older handset buyers can be seen in many key areas, starting with how much weight these groups assign to certain features when selecting a new handset.
Brand and price are the main factors for consumers both in the 18 to 24 and in the 40 to 44 age groups. However, for the younger group, multimedia features such as a camera and styling are more important in deciding which phone to buy. In a generalized view, handsets for young adults serve as part social networking portal, part personal entertainment device and part fashion statement. For the older adults, in contrast, handsets serve a more utilitarian function of basic communications for work and personal use. Savvy service providers and handset brands are figuring out these preference patterns and are devising feature sets and service bundles that are highly targeted for various ages and needs.
Another area of difference is in usage. When asked how much time they use their mobile phones for tasks besides voice communications, consumers younger than 18 reported they spent 23 percent of the time text messaging. The older the age, the less time spent texting, with the rate falling to 21 percent for 18 to 24 year olds, to 11 percent for those in the 35 to 39 and the 40 to 44 year-old segments - and to just 1 percent for those 65 and more. This pattern reflects the relative comfort and preference that youth and young adults have with "pinging" each other several times a day with the type of "How R U?" messages that texting lends itself to.
Interestingly, e-mail was most popular among the 18-to-24 year-old group, with 8 percent of their time spent on this task. Those less than 18 spent just 4 percent of their time e-mailing, and consumers aged from 25 to 39 e-mailed 6 percent of the time. E-mail represents a more formal style of communicating with somewhat more complete sentences--and the use of a QWERTY keyboard is very helpful-versus the more informal world of texting. When we look at the data for smart-phone users it is true that e-mailing features more prominently.
Handset haves and have nots
Another major factor influencing phone usage is income.
As you would expect, those with lower incomes attribute more importance to price than those making more money when buying a new handset. iSuppli's survey indicated that 31.9 percent of U.S. consumers making less than $25,000 per year named price as their top buying criteria. However, only 14.8 percent of those earning more than $200,000 named price as a top buying criteria.
Interestingly brand preference was fairly even throughout the income bands, ranging from 19.7 percent to 17.8 percent.
The eye of the beholder
The wide variances in consumer preferences clearly show that a good mobile phone is in the eye of the beholder. With 1.29 billion mobile phones set to be shipped in 2008, there's a lot of opportunity for smart companies to tailor their products to the preferences of specific groups.