Study: Americans Want To Customize Their Phones, But Don't Want To Pay Extra For It

Do most people view their phones as portable computers? According to a recent international survey conducted by Zogby and Skype that looks at how people perceive their mobile phones, the answer seems to be a resounding “no”. But it’s clear that many of the features now associated with smartphones, like custom app stores, are now desired by the huge number of people who use more traditional ‘dumb phones’.

Looking at the results from the United States, many of the datapoints in the survey are not particularly surprising. Of 1,800 people surveyed, 18.9% owned smartphones, which strongly correlated with the 19.3% of participants who viewed their phones as a device used for both computing and making phone calls (said another way, most people with ‘dumb phones’ just use their phones to talk). Given a choice, 66.4% of the participants would rather lose their cell phone over their computer, while only 19.1% would sacrifice their computer (again, given the probable price difference, not surprising).

But there are a few points worth paying attention to. When asked if they thought that phone manufacturers and carriers would do a better job at picking out applications than they could, the vast majority of participants (80.5%), even those with ‘dumb phones’, either disagreed or strongly disagreed – people want to be able to customize their phones.

Despite that desire, only 26.2% of them have actually installed applications on their phones, which seems to indicate that for the most part, most phones and carriers have simply done a bad job at making it easy for users to download applications (I suspect Apple and more recently Google would be the exceptions in this department). Finally, when asked if they’d be willing to pay extra for a device that let them customize their phone’s applications, 51.8% said that they wouldn’t.

The same study conducted in the UK and Japan exhibited similar trends, but the results from Spain are significantly different. 48% of Spanish participants have installed apps on their phones, and 50% would be willing to pay extra for a device capable of downloading customized applications. Perhaps this is one case where seeing is believing: unlike in the United States, many Spaniards have actually experienced having a customized phone – perhaps they’ve found the associated benefits justify a cost increase.

US Results

Aggregate International Results