Inventive Teens

Philip Elmer-DeWitt cited Piper Jaffray’s latest Teen Survey on Device Ownership where ~7,500 teens in the US are asked about their device ownership. This type of data is similar to the method comScore uses to measure penetration smartphones in the US making the two data sets comparable.

The combined data is shown the following graphs.

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 4-10-3.07.04 PM

One graph is the penetration data and the other is the ratio of penetration to unpenetrated on a log scale. The PJC Teen Survey data is shown as dots on both graphs. In the spring of 2012 the difference between teen iPhone ownership and overall population iPhone ownership was 20 percentage points. In the fall 2012 it was 22 points. In spring 2013 it was 25 points. The spread increased to 30 points in the fall of 2013.

This implies that the latest sample (April 2014) should have at least a 31 point lead on what comScore will report in another two months.[1] In other words current iPhone penetration in the US is probably 30%. This assumes of course that the relationship between teens and overall population has not changed. But there is consistency in the pattern of iPhone growth for over 50 months.

In addition, the purchase intent data is showing that there is growing interest and that interest reflects demand which has been largely met by a purchase decision.

Teens are leading adoption in this particular sector because the device is very well suited to the jobs that they need to do, mainly social interaction. It’s no coincidence that the audiences for the fastest-rising services (SnapChat, WhatsApp, Vine, YouTube, Instagram) consist mainly of teens. They also lead adoption in FaceBook, iTunes, MySpace, etc. In that regard teens are an early indicator of mainstream behavior.

Teens taught the world new habits throughout the 20th century[2] and they certainly seem to be teaching us in the present.

  1. comScore reports data during the first week of a month for a period ending one month earlier. So the April release covers a sampling period ending February []
  2. An entertaining review of the contribution (and invention) of teenagers in the 20th century can be enjoyed in James May’s 20th Century Episode 5 []
  • N

    Is Piper Jaffrey’s survey data statistically reliable with an acceptable margin of error?

    • Mark Jones

      I believe one acknowledged survey flaw is that the teens surveyed are from middle to upper class suburban families. But that’s been consistent for the survey over the years, so comparing iPhone/iPad data from one year to the next is reliable. Given Android’s strength in the lower income brackets, the survey probably overstates teen iPhone ownership.

      Anecdotally, I live in Boston suburbs, and iPhone is probably 80% of teens (and parents) in the high school.

      • RogerMercer

        Very good points, Mark.

      • Good point. The important observation is about the trend or consistency in pattern.

  • charly

    Iphones are also $700 luxury goods. Which is a lot of money for a teenager but not so much for most adults

    • Walt French

      Yeah, that’d have been pretty much true in 2007, when an iPhone was pretty much ONLY what Jobs called it: a phone, an iPod and an internet navigator. At more-or-less today’s prices, running at maybe 2%–3% of the 5S’s speed for anything beyond talking (where it’s only maybe 5X better in terms of holding a signal, not dropping it, …).

      As Horace notes, today’s smartphones are damn well tuned to what (some) people really want to do, what with all sorts of networking, video media, games, etc. Yet they cost the same, despite a huge increase in usability. Unsurprisingly, we use ’em a LOT more when they do most of what people want, faster/more effectively than alternatives.

      As somebody with a pretty fair income, I’m personally pleased to see the price/performance ratio improve dramatically, primarily in the performance dimension. Now if our wireless data budget would only show that same increase in value!

      • RogerMercer

        The difference in connectivity companies like ATT, Verizon, et. al, is that they are government-permitted monopolies. Apple is not. Government monopolies do not raise the quality while the price stay the same or falls. Computer companies do. They don’t have government backing of their monopoly status.

    • John Rich

      Except that what a teen actually values has dramatically shifted with Generation Z. For Boomers and a big chunk of GenX the teen dream was a car. That has now been replaced with connectivity and a smartphone is the control panel for their connected lives.

    • rb763

      I don’t think people see mobile phones as $700 items. More like $200 items with a $50+ per month commitment.

      • StevenDrost

        I would take it a step farther. They can get a decent smartphone free on contract with any of the major carriers. Also, the dynamics are changing as we move to a replacement cycle from selling primarily to new users. Even for the prepaid markets, teens can inherit an old device from a friend or parent or just buy one used for 2-300 or less$.

      • charly

        This is only true in the US. Other markets you get a free phone but you also pay more for your contract in a very obvious way.

      • StevenDrost

        See my comments on how the replacement cycle. You can get an IPhone for much less than $700 if you inherit the phone from friends or family or buy used. It’s been going on for some time, IPhones live long lives with multiple owners. I don’t buy the argument for a “cheap” IPhone because consumers already have access to cheap used models. Why flood the market and risk price erosion?

  • handleym

    So does this mean we FINALLY see the end of the moronic posts telling us “I don’t wear a watch therefore no-one else in the world will ever buy a smart watch” or “I only wear a $20,000 watch therefore no-one in the world wants to pay for an Apple smart watch”?

    We can hope so, but I fear that the stupid will always be with us.

  • Tim F.

    Horace, just curious: is there still a Part 2 to your “recent” Google post on its way? (Or did it not come together or hold your interest?)


    • It’s going to come but still mulling it over.

      • Tim F.

        Thanks for the response, Horace.

  • Jeff G

    Horace, Care to recant on the statement, “I suspect Apple will never make a watch.” 🙂 (do you recall that?)

    • I have no recollection of saying that.

      • Jeff G

        Horace, I was going by my far-from-perfect memory. My wording/recollection was off, but I found a statement of that essence in the comment section of your July 31 ’12 Post:

        “Estimating third and fourth quarter IOS shipments”

        Horace Dediu: You were replying to someone named ‘handleym’.

        “I suspect that Apple will not be jumping into any watch category, ever.”

        It wasn’t even important, it just flashed to mind when I was reading about the Inventive Teens so I thought I would tease you a little. And, maybe I misunderstood what you meant by “jumping into”?

        Mainly, I’m glad Google could help me find it, so that I know I’m not completely losing my mind. I love your work!


        A Fan

        (I am curious though why 2 people ‘liked’ your comment above. Either they liked that you have no recollection, or they were rooting for my insanity? 🙂

      • The comment I was responding to was phrased as Apple “jumping in” to some watch category. The refutation of my comment was on the “jumping in” implying that Apple will create the category. It’s like saying that Apple “jumped in” to the smartphone category with the iPhone. It may have seemed to be doing so at the time but in retrospect it became clear that it re-defined what a smartphone was.

      • Jeff G

        Ahhhh. That makes perfect sense! And, I agree. So you felt they would enter the watch category but it would be on Apple Terms.

      • Moisés Chiullan

        We’ve discussed this a few times on Critical Path. In keeping with what Horace says, it feels more like Apple to redefine the notion of wearables than “invent” a category that already exists.

        Over a year ago, I started forwarding the idea of them also redefining the concept of the iPod, which has technically been a “wearable” since they put a string necklace on the first iPod shuffle.

    • Walt French

      About 58,300,000 results (0.89 seconds)
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