September 14, 2012

Feature Phones Remain Popular As 'Starter Phones'

Kate Dreyer
Director, Corporate Communications
Although smartphones continue to penetrate an increasingly large share of the mobile subscriber base age 13+ in the U.S., feature phones still account for a substantial portion of the mobile market. Feature phones still account for just over half of the mobile install-base, and for over one-third of consumer mobile devices acquired in June. While feature phones will no doubt decline in share as smartphones become more accessible to the mass market over time, for now, these simple, inexpensive devices continue to abound as they appear to be playing the role of ‘starter phones.’

While feature phone users as a whole skew older than the average population - possibly due to older users holding on to their devices - recent acquirers of feature phones skew dramatically toward the youngest users. This suggests that new feature phone acquisitions are being driven by teens acquiring their first devices.
Teens may be getting feature phones as starter devices because parents don't want to pay the cost of smartphones or the data plans associated with them.  However, as more and more value-priced smartphones are released, in combination with shared data plans and easier plan management, we may begin to see lower-end smartphones increasingly encroach on feature phones’ role as starter devices.

Feature Phones Remain Popular As ‘Starter Phones’

*Index of 100 indicates average representation among the mobile population.

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