All the hype surrounding the launch of the new, thinner iPhone 4G provides the occasion for a
timely reminder that consumer attitudes to a product may vary considerably. The chart shows data
from an American company, InsightExpress, who have been researching the behavioural and
attitudinal consumer trends surrounding mobile phones since 2007. This particular InsightExpress
study was produced in May this year. Such research findings are released four times a year as a
paid-for Digital Consumer Portrait. Although the survey is based on only 1,050 respondents,
selected to demographically represent the US population, the data provides a useful snapshot of
what is happening in the dynamic product area of mobile phones.
For a start, it provides a rough guide to the proportional split between light, medium and heavy
usage of mobile phones. In any competitive market one of the best models to help understand
customers is to segment by behaviour. This can be a good guide to successfully position a product,
frame any marketing offers, and also sense-check all kinds of marketing activity.
Never get carried away with all the high technology, and very expensive, solutions available for
market research, when a simple, cheaper, product will do. Questionnaire-based research has
obvious limitations, but every method has its uses. You may argue about specific percentages in
the behavioural segments but discovering consumer attitudes is as much art as science. Plus or
minus 10% in the study’s accuracy doesn’t matter that much. The real benefit is that we can marry
the segmentation with other customer data to provide a better understanding of what is actually
happening in the marketplace. The study’s results will vary by some degree every time the survey
is taken. But the data is obtained at relatively low cost and yet provides a useful viewpoint.
Whilst remembering that the questionnaire respondents will not be an absolutely accurate sample
of the entire US, broadly speaking, the US mobile phone market follows a Pareto principle
distribution. This means that 23% are heavy mobile users. InsightExpress calls these people
Mobile Intensives. This group falls into the 18-44 year age range and they are generally better-off
economically. Forty-five percent of this group check their phone first or second thing in the
morning. They make the most use of texting, email, using apps and playing video, hence the
“intensive” label. This is the also the group with the highest smartphone ownership level at 68%.
The medium usage behaviour, called Mobile Casuals, represent around 24 % of the US mobile
phone market. Lightly biased towards being female (65%) these people treat their mobile phone as
a lifestyle convenience, and the age range falls into the 39 to 54 age group (59%). This group is
likely to text once a week (73%) and take a picture once a week (43%). This group’s proportion of
the total market appears to have remained constant since 2008 and makes up around 15 % of
Light mobile phone usage still totals up to around half of US mobile phone owners, although this
appears to have declined slightly since 2008 when it was 60%. But this may well be an artefact of
the research methodology, and different research methodology would be needed to confirm this
decline. Labelled the Mobile Restrained, 57% of this group are over 45 years old and they are
economically less well-off. Not surprisingly, this group has the lowest number of smartphone
owners at just 4%.
From the above data and the chart you can see that prospects for growth for the iPhone, and other
smartphones, look promising as this is far from a saturated market. The prime market is obviously
the Digital Intensive group, as over 30% still have to upgrade to a smartphone, and these people
place a high value on their mobiles. This is the iPhone 4G market.
What is fascinating is that viewing the mobile phone market through a behavioural lens it becomes
apparent how successful Huawei’s positioning of the low-cost Android smartphones is likely to be.
Huawei’s products are aimed squarely at nearly 80% of the market (the Pareto principle again)
made up of the Mobile Casuals and Mobile Restrained segments. A mobile phone with 80% (Pareto
yet again) of the functionality of an iPhone, at a price point that is less than a quarter of the iPhone,
will have great appeal for the Mobile Casuals and the Mobile Restrained market segments.
...with analysis & insight...