Youth lead high-end smartphone market but operators need to change to take advantage of this opportunity

New data suggests that youth are key to driving smartphone sales.

2013 will be the year the number of mobile phones surpasses the number of people on the planet. With more than 7 billion phones in circulation, where will the next mobile operator growth story come from? The answer lies in renewal and, in particular, customer upgrades to smartphones driven by youth.

Youth are key to high end smartphone ownership. Apple’s iPhone is the most widely owned phone for 18-32yr olds with over 25% owning one (compared to 21% Samsung, 5% Blackberry and 2% Nokia). 50% of all Verizon’s iPhone sales are the latest model – iPhone 5.

mobileYouth warns that the perception youth are cheap is just not true anymore. Youth have the biggest need for the latest handsets and are willing to pay top dollar for smartphones. These insights are often overlooked by traditional research that tends to focus on asking youth focus groups what they want and what are the barriers to ownership. The most common response from youth are price, features and usability where mobileYouth research shows, in reality, youth’s needs are very different.

Operators traditionally overlook youth because they consider youth strategies as price focused. The 2013 Mobile Youth Report shows that youth are willing and able to buy at higher price points, if operators take control of the customer experience and perception of value.

Youth aren’t just a future investment for mobile operators, but they are valuable today: they buy the most high-end handsets and influence more family and friends. If mobile can move from viewing youth as being as a subset of prepaid to viewing them potential market with the highest need for the newest products, operators can drive both new handset sales and influence the purchase behaviors of all customers.

3 Point Key Summary:

1) Mobile operator growth will come from renewal and smartphone upgrades
2) Youth lead high end smartphone ownership (e.g. iPhones)
3) Operators need to change their perception of youth from low-end prepaid users to high-end market drivers and influencers to capitalize on this growth opportunity

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About Graham Brown

Co-founder of mobileYouth. Cultural explorer, ethnographer and digital anthropologist. Author of The annual mobileYouth report and books The Mobile Youth: Voices of the Mobile Generation, All is Social, The Youth Marketing Handbook, Fans and Youth Marketing 101.

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