Although they still constitute a minority of mobile users, smartphone owners command the majority of marketers’ attention. The explanation boils down to how smartphone owners use their devices. Simply put, they do more of everything than their counterparts with feature phones: messaging, gaming, listening to music, watching videos, social networking, shopping, using apps and browsing the web.
The next generation of smartphones promises to take this disparity to even greater heights, in the process spurring increased competition between Apple’s proprietary iOS platform and the open Android operating system championed by Google. The addition of tablets into the smart-device mix constitutes a vital second front in the larger Apple-Google battle for mobile supremacy.
As of the end of 2010, eMarketer estimates 30% of smartphone users in the US had a BlackBerry and 28% had an iPhone, the top two operating systems. But Android’s share of the market is rising quickly. Nielsen tracking surveys found Android pulling ahead among recent smartphone purchasers, and eMarketer predicts that by 2012 Android will be the No. 1 mobile OS in the country.
Ultimately, the winner, if there is one, matters less than marketers’ ability to make the most of the growing number of smart devices to deliver rich, engaging experiences for consumers.