Understanding the Mobile Internet User

Just a few short years ago, in the “Blackberry era” (which is now seen as contemporary as AOL dial up), the primary uses for smartphones were for:

1. Making calls—a dying art

2. Sending and receiving texts

3. Taking photos

4. And sending and receiving emails–very cool at the time

Back then (last decade) the email ability of a Blackberry was a big breakthrough and user demographics skewed heavily to business users. However, the iPhone and Android products have changed how smartphones are used and who uses them.

Today’s smartphones are in fact small computers and the Apple/Android products have crushed the Blackberry and have expanded the usage of smart phones as a social device linked to the internet. Furthermore, though we still call our mobile devices “phones”, and we do in fact have the ability to make calls, the phone is the least sexy and to many, least relevant use of the device. Sure, households are dropping their old land lines like hot potatoes. They ask (understandably) whether they really need a land line when their mobile phones can also provide telephone service.

But the sexy and growing part of the mobile device use is internet usage. Verizon Wireless and AT&T have recognized this seismic shift and their new shared data plans, with unlimited calls, moves their business model away from the  traditional mobile phone to a data device. With new shared data plans they now “give away” unlimited phone minutes, yet cap–and charge for–data usage. While they grandfather some lines with unlimited data, most users will see that go away in years to come. The big carriers are no dummies. They know how to make money.

In the October 2012 Media Audit FYI looked at the phenomena of smartphone users in an article, Five Characteristics of Mobile Internet Users. It’s a fascinating piece and the 5 characteristics they site are:

1. Young and Affluent

Media Audit says that among those who are described as “Young with Money”, 78.1% are mobile internet users. Whoa!

2. Upscale

32% more likely to earn more than $75,000 in annual  household income, and 60% more likely than the general population to earn more than $150,000 in household income. Double whoa!

3. Influential—This is particularly interesting as mobile internet users are 43% more likely to be Facebook users and 84% more likely to use Twitter.

4. Highly Mobile

Mobile users are 84% more likely than the general population to be heavy domestic air travelers.

5. Deal Conscious

24.6% of mobile internet users have utilized Groupon, a figure that is 69% higher when compared to the general population, and 12.5% have utilized LivingSocial, a figure that is 79% higher than the general population.

The data is interesting, yet there is also data to show that smart phone usage is very widespread among all ethnic,  age and income groups. According to a September 23, 2012 New York Post article, Digital Divided: Whites are lagging in smartphone usage they site the following:

More than half of American mobile subscribers — 55.5 percent — are now owners of smartphones of all types, but for white people, the numbers make up just 45 percent, the lowest of any ethnic group, new findings from Nielsen show. Sixty-six percent of Asians, 56 percent of Hispanics and 55 percent of African-Americans use smartphones to check e-mail, play games and surf the Web. The report seems surprising in light of data showing a widening economic gap between whites and minorities.

In any event it’s easy to see why retailers are scrambling to create mobile marketing programs which will target the increasingly mobile consumer, one which is accessing the internet at the point of purchase and using their devices to seek information, deals, and to make buying decisions. More than ever the mobile device provides information, and information is power.

Power to the (Mobile) People.

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