As the benefits of owning a smartphone have become more obvious, smartphone penetration has seen intermittent growth throughout the country. After slowing down briefly in the spring, the numbers are now rising more swiftly. The penetration today appears broad, with 141 million people owning smartphones — a jump of 6 percent since February, but with few accompanying changes in providers’ market shares. Apple’s iPhone remains on top, holding 39 percent of the hardware market. But Google’s multiple connections continue to make the Android platform the most popular around, with 52 percent of the platform market. Both Apple and Android increased those respective market shares slightly in the first half of 2013, but neither gained more than a percentage point.
Of the other major players, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Symbian all lost market share in 2013, but again the changes were slight (BlackBerry, with more than half a percentage point, showed the biggest loss). Samsung ranked second in the hardware market and saw a 1.7 percentage jump in adoption, while HTC, Motorola and LG all jostled for the last three positions.
A May 2013 study by eMarketer showed similarly promising trends on a global level. The research agency predicted 50 percent smartphone penetration worldwide by as early as 2017. While the United States stands at 60 percent smartphone adoption right now, it passed the 50 percent marker only last year — a trend shared by other advanced economies including South Korea, Australia and Sweden. Many other developed nations, from Japan to Germany, are expected to cross the halfway point either this year or in 2014.
The growth in mobile use is leading to a rise in mobile marketing ventures, a point mentioned in recent studies such as Research and Market’s “Global Mobile Advertising Market: Trends & Opportunities 2013-2018.” That report found that growth in the Asia-Pacific sectors, combined with a growing acceptance of using smartphones for Internet browsing, has opened up many potential advertising channels for businesses. The Mobile Marketing Association also released a report predicting that the mobile marketing industry would show a 52 percent annual growth rate, reaching $400 billion by 2015.
Greater market and cultural penetration also means more mobile features designed for the masses. A broader audience can be a great equalizer, pushing up apps and innovations that have the most mass appeal while diverting other functions into increasingly differentiated niche markets. As smartphone adoption continues to grow in the United States, it will be interesting to see if that leads to any major design changes. As CNET recently pointed out, mobile creators have been guilty of experimenting with some very wacky products in the past. Will smartphone saturation lead to more level-headed, consumer-oriented decisions, or will it inspire a rash of more dubious features as designers try to meet mistaken ideas of what “everyone” wants?
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