Nearly half of UK mobile owners now use smartphones but manufacturers need to work on conversion

Nearly half of UK mobile owners now use smartphones but manufacturers need to work on conversion

In the latest research from YouGov’s Technology and Telecoms team, nearly half of the UK’s mobile owners now use smartphones (47%).

In the UK, there has been a steady but slowing growth of smartphone usage. Apple’s iPhone leads the way with a 29% share of the smartphone market; Blackberry has steadily lost its share over the past two years (17%) and Samsung and HTC have gained popularity, representing clear threats to Apple’s dominance  with 20% and 17% respectively.

Though this research shows that there is still a large stronghold of feature phone users, YouGov thinks that smartphones will dominate the market with a clear majority (over 55%) within the next 12 months.

Samsung has been kicking-ass and taking names in both smartphone and feature phone markets: 20 and 25% respectively. This means that it is in good shape to convert feature phone users with established products in both markets. Other feature phone manufacturers might do well to look at Samsung as a good example.

Nokia remains the most popular manufacturer for feature phone owners, it holds over 40% and thus, has a good opportunity to capture and convert a sizeable proportion of the feature phone market. However YouGov says, unlike Samsung, Nokia lacks the smartphone market share necessary and has struggled to capture the current market with their smartphone offerings.

YouGov says that converting the feature phone market is not easy. There are many in the ‘late majority’ who are not focused on tech and sceptical of the value of smartphones. Its latest SMIX (Smartphone Mobile Internet eXperience) findings confirm this: over 40% of feature phone users “have no need for a smartphone”; over 50% are “happy with their regular mobile phone”.

YouGov’s research indicates that expense appears to be another critical issue with conversion, between 30% and 40% of feature phone users also feel that “smartphone handsets are too expensive”.

For their part, manufacturers have sought to address this issue; with the exception of Apple, most smartphone manufacturers have expanded product lines to include less expensive models. This strategy may be paying off for Samsung and HTC; Apple holds its own in the smartphone market, gaining 30% of the feature phone converters but Samsung and HTC are catching up with 25% and 16% respectively.

Too little, too late?

Blackberry and Nokia are not faring so well in this way, their diversified product portfolio strategy does not appear to be paying off. Blackberry has suffered from well documented problems both in the UK and worldwide. Nokia, despite currently owning a huge chunk of the feature phone market, has been unable to convert this base to its smartphone models (Lumia) and may capture just 4% of feature phone converters within the next 18 months.

John Gilbert, Consulting Director of YouGov’s Technology and Telecoms team has a gloomy outlook for Nokia, “This situation may be a case of Nokia coming to the smartphone party, too little and too late – their loss of share may be permanent. To address the various barriers to smartphone conversion requires a better understanding of the complacent and currently satisfied feature phone market.”

Though it is not surprising that a big section of the UK market has moved over to smartphones, it’s a shame that some manufacturers are not pushing to pick up the majority left behind. According to this report from YouGov, it looks as though there are great gains to be made with the right product at the right price.

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