The U.S. hit 65.2% smartphone penetration in December and added 30 million new smartphone users during 2013 to reach about 156 million smartphone users by the end of the fourth quarter, according to comScore. That’s up from 28 million new users added in 2012.
The number of new users added in a year through the end of each quarter, compared to that same time period one year earlier, has been up and down over the past several quarters, but has not been able to match the peak of 35 million yearly net adds, which was reached at the end of the fourth quarter of 2011.
The “late majority” of smartphone adopters are now dictating the pace of the market, as we’re already well past the halfway point of adoption, with 65% of mobile subscribers aged 13 and above already using a smartphone. That’s up from 62% at the end of the second quarter of 2013.
Going forward, the number of incremental new users added each year will stagnate and ultimately decline until the market becomes completely saturated.
Below is a look at smartphone users broken down by platform, as a segment of total mobile subscriptions.
Though there’s still a significant “blue ocean” of non-smartphone users to cover, major mobile platforms aren’t focusing on gaining these non-smartphone users, since new audience growth will no longer be as robust as it once was.
As we’ve discussed before, penetration growth slows after adoption hits 50%. Remaining market segments tend to be older, less wealthy, or late adopters, and are less lucrative to platforms. So, in the late stages of U.S. smartphone adoption, platforms will refocus efforts toward monetization of current users — earning more from the activities of users already on the platform — and will look to convert users from competing platforms in order to drive growth.
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