Smartphones shaping US shopper habits

27 July 2011

NEW YORK: Smartphones are playing an increasingly influential role in shaping the habits of US consumers, a trend that could gain ground with the launch of Apple's iPhone 5.

A study from PriceGrabber, a unit of research firm Experian, surveyed 2,852 internet users across America, and found that 88% of existing smartphone subscribers use the devices to make calls, 77% send emails and 73% use text messaging.

A 69% share go online via this route, 51% visit search platforms like Google, and 50% leverage global positioning services.

Elsewhere, 36% of the interviewees currently owning an iPhone or similar alternative employ them for commercial purposes.

In all, 48% of this group have previously compared prices on the web while in stores, 35% had scanned product barcodes to find the best price, and 29% had deployed geo-location tools to discover where goods were sold.

An additional 28% stated a preference for receiving coupons, deals and other such alerts "on the go", a model being pushed by providers like Foursquare, ShopKick and Facebook.

In terms of making purchases from a mobile, 22% of respondents engaged in this pastime a "couple of times a month", 16% did so a few times a year and 12% did so at least once a week.

"Mobile shopping has truly emerged as a trend among savvy consumers," said Graham Jones, general manager of PriceGrabber.

"What positions it for long-term success is the fact that consumers can use their smartphones as an enhancement to the shopping they already do in brick-and-mortar stores.

"Shoppers are … engaging with and leveraging the technology of their smartphones to take advantage of what their local retailers have to offer, which is certainly a promising prospect for the Main Street economy."

Looking forward, 35% of the company's panel planned to buy Apple's iPhone 5 upon its expected release later this year.

More specifically, 51% of individuals keen on the iPhone5 intended to onthe device during its first 12 months on sale, measured against 30% hoping to do so before the close of 2011.

Another 14% would like to acquire an iPhone 5 within a month of it hitting store shelves, and 7% pegged this timeframe as the first week the gadget was made available.

The advantages this handset is anticipated to possess include a longer battery life, mentioned by 59% of those polled, and a price reduction on earlier iterations, posting 55%.

Exactly 46% of contributors cited the ability to access 4G networks, 45% desired a bigger screen, and 42% name-checked an enhanced camera.

More broadly, when asked to choose their favourite operating system, 48% of participants selected the Apple iOS, ahead of Google Android's 19%, Microsoft Windows' 7%, and BlackBerry's 6%.

Upon identifying the smartphone they would most like to receive as a gift, 69% of the sample chose the iPhone 5, with Motorola's forthcoming Droid Bionic on 5% and Samsung's Galaxy S II logging 4%.

Jones suggested such a level of interest in the latest iPhone, less than a year after the last variant was rolled out, demonstrated the exceptionally strong following Apple has built up.

"Anticipation and brand loyalty are certainly high," he said.

"But in today's 24-7 work culture and uncertain economic environment, consumers are cautious to look for a reasonably priced phone that will perform optimally over an extended time period."

Data sourced from PriceGrabber; additional content by Warc staff