PARIS: Smartphone buyers in France afford brands a lower degree of importance when making purchase decisions than their counterparts choosing more basic handsets, new figures show.

Médiamétrie, the research group, reported that 23.8m people in the country now own a smartphone. This equates to 46.8% of the population, compared with 19.8% at the start of 2009.

A survey by the company of all mobile subscribers found that usability was the most important purchase criteria for 33%, ahead of the brand on 28% and the touchscreen features on 18%.

Looking solely at smartphone users, internet access assumed priority status on 32%, ahead of the brand on 23%, a total matched by touchscreen features. The operating system powering devices logged 17% on this measure.

At present, gadgets running on Google's Android operating system now hold 45% of the market, compared with 21% for Apple's iOS. Two years ago, these readings stood at 10% and 34% respectively.

Some 83% of smartphone users agreed their phones were vital for managing and simplifying life, while 82% liked the fact they were customisable and 75% cited being able to stay in touch with friends, family and other contacts at all times as a key benefit.

Another 67% pointed to the entertainment opportunities afforded by this channel, while 46% felt their smartphone had an emotional value, and 42% agreed it was a fashionable item to own.

When assessing which smartphone functions were "indispensible", fully 80% of people possessing such devices pointed to SMS and MMS, with web access on 56%, ahead of email and a camera on 51%,

Geo-location services recorded 35% here, ahead of utilising social networks on 25%, playing games on 21% and watching video on 20%.

Data sourced from Médiamétrie; additional content by Warc staff