Nielsen: Majority Of Mobile U.S. Teens Now Own Smartphones

Nielsen announced in May that more than half of U.S. mobile owners now owned smartphones. Today that metric has grown again, going from 50.4% to 55.5%. But the more interesting figure in the firm’s release of July 2012 data is not this incremental increase — although it’s notable as an indication of just how fast the smartphone market is growing. It’s the fact that today, the majority of mobile-owning American teens (58%) now own smartphones. That’s up from roughly a third (36%) in 2011.

Teens (ages 13 to 17), says Nielsen, are the fastest-growing segment of smartphone owners, but they’re not the largest*. That claim goes to the young adults: 74% of 25-34-year-olds now own smartphones, up from 59% in July 2011, making this age group the highest among smartphone penetration in the U.S.

Traditionally, parents have held off on buying teenagers phones for a variety of reasons: The phones were expensive; the data plans were even more pricey; and, perhaps in some cases, parents didn’t feel that the kids really needed a “fancy” device like a smartphone. (After all, all kids do is text, right?) How times have changed. Recently launched shared family data plans have made the price sensitivity surrounding smartphone monthly bills easier for families to handle, even in a down economy. And many of these plans are still new — the further impact of their adoption has not fully been realized. Additionally, Android-based devices have targeted the low-end of the market with cheaper — in some cases, even sub-$100 — devices. Older Apple iPhones sold by carriers and on secondary marketplaces, meanwhile, more than suffice for many teens and are priced lower than the new models.

Nielsen’s data again confirms that Android handsets continue to lead the smartphone market (in terms of OS share), with both the majority of smartphone owners (51.9%) and recent acquirers (58.6%), meaning those who obtained their handsets within the last three months. Apple’s iPhone came in second, with a 34% share of smartphone owners, and Blackberry continued to drop. It’s now at an 8% share of the U.S. smartphone market, down from 11.6% in May.

* Note that Nielsen’s summary of this data says that the majority of U.S. teens own smartphones. That’s not accurate. Nielsen’s report comes from a monthly survey of 20,000+ mobile subscribers aged 13+ in the U.S. In other words, non-mobile teens aren’t taken into account.