US Smartphone Ownership Now 55%, 'Second Screen' Phenomenon Nearing 90%

According to Nielsen's latest data, 55% of US mobile phone owners now have smartphone phones. Previously comScore reported that fully half of feature phone owners buying new phones were upgrading to smartphones (a majority to Android devices). Nielsen says that two-thirds of new mobile phone buyers are opting for smartphones. It's likely therefore that smartphone ownership will reach at least 60% in the US by the end of Q4. 

Data reflect that the overwhelming majority of smartphone owners access the mobile Internet. Accordingly, smartphone penetration is generally equivalent to mobile Internet penetration. 

Screen Shot 2012-07-31 at 8.28.26 AM

The smartphone audience is creeping closer to PC audience levels. By the end of 2012, if smartphone penetration reaches 60%, there will be nearly 150 million users in the US. Nielsen says that mobile audience is 237 million subscribers, while comScore puts it at 234 million. These figures are probably slightly low. A better "base" is closer to 250 million, although CTIA says there are more than 300 million wireless subscriptions in the US (indicating some level of duplication). 

 Screen Shot 2012-07-31 at 8.44.00 AM

According to Nielsen, time with apps (vs. the mobile web) has increased from 72% to 81%. In other words, people are spending only 19% of their time on the mobile web. This flies in the face of the "cross platform" conventional wisdom which argues: build an HTML5 app instead of native apps because it will provide greater reach.

The amount of time consumed by the top 50 apps has apparently decreased, which means people are spending more time with a wider range of apps. 

Screen Shot 2012-07-31 at 8.30.22 AM

Among the top 15 apps, 12 have a "social and/or local component." Straddling the categories are Twitter, Facebook and top photo-sharing site and social network Instagram (bought by Facebook). 

Screen Shot 2012-07-31 at 8.45.32 AM

The Nielsen data also reveal the increasing degree to which smartphone and tablet owners now use these devices while watching conventional TV. Large majorities approaching 90% now use their mobile devices simultaneously according to Nielsen. I suspect these numbers are somewhat higher than actual usage, but the findings argue that TV advertisers must be conscious of these "second screens" when creating ad content.  

  Screen Shot 2012-07-31 at 8.25.37 AM

The data below report that people are doing various things on smartphones and tablets "during the program." However I suspect much of this activity amounts to ad avoidance. Meaningful minorities of people appear to be responding to TV ad content by doing searches or looking up product information. 

Screen Shot 2012-07-31 at 8.43.05 AM

Finally, according to Q3 2011 Nielsen data, mobile ads are the least trusted form of advertising. Paradoxically, however, they tend to be more effective than other ad categories, especially PC advertising. Yet mobile ads have quite a way to go before they reach trust levels comparable to conventional media ads.

Screen Shot 2012-07-31 at 8.41.38 AM