US smartphone penetration growth rate update

The survey data from comScore is in and it suggests that smartphone penetration increased by a significant 1.58%. It is now 35.1% with 82.2 million users.

The weekly new user rate was about 863k/wk during July or about 586k/wk average over the last three months. I plotted the weekly add rates for the last 18 surveys and overlaid the three month moving average.

The chart shows that there is an upward slope to the upper and lower bounds of the moving average. Extrapolating trend forward gives me confidence in projecting 50% penetration by July 2012.

  • Probably down in the weeds here, but how does comScore define smartphone? Presuming it's something fairly basic. Asking because it would seem to a challenge to track a category over time when feature sets are evolving rapidly.

    • I, too, am curious about this. As Android moves downmarket, I believe a distinction between “smartphones” and “app phones” in the hands of app-buying customers will become necessary for meaningful analysis.

  • Luis DS

    Dear Horace,

    Nothing to do with the topic, but I can’t find a way to send a direct message.
    I love the site. Can you please, please, add a “bigger font” button in the iPhone version of the site. My eye sight is not what it used to be. I’ve worked for 15 years studyng the eye and vision quality and can tell you that in a large portion of the population vision starts deteriorating as early as 35 years old. Larger fonts are all we need.

    PS. Please remove the message from the site if you feel like it.

  • EWPellegrino

    Looking at the numbers it seems Apple gained more subscribers from June->July than any month this year. In fact they gained around the same as in the entire Oct->Jan quarter. Likely next month they will breach 10% of the total handset market in the US, which is pretty astonishing.

    • That was due to pent up demand for the iPhone 5 being turned into pent up, yet easily satisfied demand for the iPhone 4. There had been months of rumors that Apple would release the new phone at the World Wide Developers Conference on June 29th (iirc), and finally, a few weeks before the WWDC, Apple announced it most definitely would not be releasing the phone at that time. I’m assuming that all those people who had delayed purchases, waiting for the iPhone 5, rushed out to buy the iPhone 4.

  • phil swenson

    I have a question about comscore. Eric Raymond keeps a spreadsheet of al the reported comscore data here:

    What I don't understand is the user base table which shows US iPhone use by 15.8m in Dec 2010 to 20.88m in June 2011. In the same time, iPhone activations as reported by Verizon + AT&T are far above the 5.08m shown by comscore:

    Verizon Q1 = 2.2m
    Verizon Q2 = 2.3m
    AT&T Q1 = 3.6m
    AT&T Q2 = 3.6m
    That's 11.7m

    • EWPellegrino

      Comscore's data is based on subscriber surveys, not activations. So when an iPhone 3GS subscriber upgrades he or she shows up in the activations but not in the comscore numbers.

  • phil swenson

    Hit enter to quickly. Any idea why there is this discrepancy?

    1) AT&T/Verizon #s are not true
    2) comScore data is flawed
    3) Eric Raymond's data is wrong (I don't know where he gets the millions data as I haven't seen this on ComScore)
    4) many iPhones are being retired

    • EWPellegrino

      1) If they're materially wrong it would be legally actionable
      2) is unlikely as their numbers match up very well with Nielsen's survey
      3) he's just multiplying the OEM share with the estimate for total handsets which has stayed roughly constant at around 234mil.

      leaving 4).

      • Horace Dediu

        Nielsen's penetration numbers tend to be a bit higher but they do seem to grow at comparable rates.

      • Horace Dediu

        The other thing to take into account is that they data is for a survey covering a three month period ending in July so it's an average of sorts.

        I have noticed however some odd patterns. For example the weekly add rate for period ending June 2011 was 383,871. The weekly add rate for period ending Dec 2010 is 383,871. There was another case of identical add rates for November 2010 and June 2010. It may be due to the limited precision of their reported numbers but it is an odd coincidence.

  • Don

    This data shows no sign of a knee in the curve. It looks almost completely linear. Would you expect this curve to show an increased pace of adoption at any point? Why or why not?

  • Cherog

    Do you have any idea about smartphone penetration in Europe and Asia.
    I'm travelling quite frequently across Europe and see especially young people using smartphones e.g. in The Netherlands, UK beyond Switerland which has a very high rate.
    Recently I was in China and Vietnam and nearly all managers I met had their personal smartphone. What really me surprised to see waiters using a smartphone, so even youn, low income people had a smartphone.

    • Horace Dediu

      I don't track the data but I sometimes post on twitter data points I come across. Penetration in Europe tends to be higher. Australia is higher. UK is about the same as US. Asia tends to be lower but some countries higher.

    • Kirk Lennon

      I doubt what you saw in the waiter’s hands was their personal smartphone. Unlike in the West, you don’t generally get a set waiter in China; you just call out fúwùyuán (in my experience you can usually just shout/slur something that might sound like it possibly begins with an F and get somebody) and whoever’s closest comes. I’ve yet to get a close look at it, but at many restaurants, they carry around PDAs that they can then use to look up your bill (based on table number).

  • Anonymous

    3:1 ratios of monthly adds suggest pretty high uncertainty in aggregate data that’d be hard to explain by individual new model intros, no?

    Anyway it’s funny to think that this far into the revolution, there are 2 feature phones sold for each smartphone. Sure suggests that smartphones are MORE than good enough and so subject to low-end disruption— or am I missing part of the theory?

    • Anonymous

      That’s not what these results say, what they say is that of every 3 phones in circulation in the US, 2 are still feature phones. Population is a trailing measure, so smartphone sales are going to be somewhat higher than that would suggest – the last Nielsen numbers put them at over 50%, comscore doesn’t supply any sales numbers.

      None of that however has any bearing on whether smartphones are more than good enough, how are you making that leap?

      • Anonymous

        I stand corrected on the share info.

        Regards “good enough, I used the simple logic that if dumb phones are (“still”) selling well, many people are quite happy with mobile communications devices that let them call, text, pull simple info from some cloud and play games, without worrying about fluidity of touch screens, multi-tasking, etc.

      • Anonymous

        While at first it seems plausible, at closer inspection that argument doesn’t hold water, back in 2007 almost everybody was happy with their dumb phones so by the same logic smartphones were good enough and there was no need for fancy iPhones and android devices. Just because dumb phones are still selling now, 4 years post iPhone, they were also still selling then and the first smartphone style devices turned up around 2000 – the first windows ones in 2001 and the first RIM ones in 2002.

        It takes time for products to penetrate different demographics, most people don’t know that they want something until they see somebody else with it and see how it would make sense within their own lives.

        Smartphones may be good enough, though I doubt it, but dumb phone sales aren’t any indication of it either way.

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