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Smartphones Top US Consumer Electronics Purchase Plans for 2011

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Consumers in the United States are more likely to buy a smartphone in 2011 than PCs, mobile phones, e readers, media tablets and gaming products, according to a recent survey by Gartner. USA 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 United States. in 2011, up from 45.6 million from 2010.

In December 2010, Gartner surveyed 1,557 mobile phone users across the United States, China, India, Italy, Japan and the UK about many topics, including 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. The results of this study represent the views of the respondents. The sample was weighted to be representative of the online population where an online methodology was pursued, and of the total population where computer-assisted or face-to-face interviews were conducted.

Smartphones were followed by laptop computers and desktop computers in rankings of U.S. consumers' average intent to purchase in 2011. Mobile phones ranked fourth in average intent to purchase, followed by e-book readers in the fifth position, and tablet computers ranking sixth.

"Continued low retail pricing and widespread adoption of applications like Web browsing, e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, GPS and games will continue to stimulate consumer demand," said Hugues de la Vergne, principal research analyst at Gartner. "In 2010, smartphones benefited from aggressive operator device subsidies and lower-cost monthly data plans."

"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," Mr. de la Vergne said. "First-time smartphone buyers may not be familiar with the range of operating systems (OSs) and the different versions of those OSs. With operators 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."

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

"Communication service providers should expand tiered data pricing to make open OS devices 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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