While the U.S. smartphone market may be slowing overall, it’s picking up speed among teenagers and young adults, according to recent comScore data analysed by BI Intelligence.Interestingly, this age cohort— which we’ve defined as 13 to 24-year-olds— also appear to increasingly prefer iPhone over Android handsets. This swing became more pronounced this past summer, when prices dropped on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, undermining Android’s price advantage.
First, let’s look at acceleration. The age segment’s growth rate has notched up for four months straight through September 2012, the last month for which data is available. The monthly growth rate was under one per cent in June, but climbed to four per cent by September.
Some 1.2 million U.S. teenagers and young adults acquired smartphones in September. The total number of 13 to 24-year-olds with smartphones rose to 29 million.
Both comScore and Nielsen numbers also reveal that recent growth has been particularly strong among younger teenagers, 13 to 17-year-olds— despite ongoing societal debates about children and smartphones.
The comScore data also reveals that more and more young people are choosing iPhones.
Back in September 2011, Google’s Android operating system still commanded a lopsided lead, with 10.4 million teens and young adults owning Android devices and 6.4 million owning Apple handsets. Google’s market share in this age segment was 47 per cent, and Apple’s 29 per cent.
But a year later, Apple had 11.2 million teens and young adults on its smartphones, and Android 14.5 million. The balance still tilts in Android’s favour, but Apple has begun to close the gap in market share. Google has 51 per cent market share, and Apple 39 per cent.
In percentage terms, Apple’s ownership base among 13 to 24-year-olds grew 76 per cent over the 12 month period, while Google’s grew 39 per cent.While previous growth patterns in this age group seem tied to product releases and seasonal factors, Apple’s surge coincides with price-slashing, as the iPhone 4S fell to $99 with a contract (the iPhone 4 became free with a contract).
The comScore data also dovetails with Piper Jaffray Analyst Gene Munster’s twice-yearly look at teenagers’ digital habits, which picked up a surge of interest in the iPhone. In the survey of over 7,000 teenagers released last month, 62 per cent of teenagers said they’d buy an iPhone in the next six months. In the survey’s early 2012 edition, that number was much lower— 40 per cent.
These trends are relevant for app developers specializing in youth-skewing categories— everything from games to education. Peter Chun of Swaag.it, a fashion app favoured by young men aged 15 to 28, told us he decided to launch his new app on iPhone rather than Android partly based on the shift in youth preferences.
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