smartphone researchOffering further evidence of just how strongly smartphone users have become attached to their mobile devices, more than 2/3 of respondents to an Online Publishers Association (OPA) survey said they “cannot live without them.”

The population of smartphone users continues to grow rapidly: an estimated 44% of the U.S. Internet population ages 8-64 own smartphones. That amounts to 107 million consumers, OPA notes, up from 31%, or 73 million consumers, in 2011.

OPA and Frank N. Magid Associates, which collaborated on the study, forecast smartphone penetration will reach 57% of the U.S. Internet population by 2Q 2013 (142 million consumers).

The research partners found that besides using them to make phone calls, 93% of U.S. smartphone users regularly access content and information, making it the most popular smartphone  activity. At 59%, accessing the Internet came next, followed by checking email (58%). Examining survey results regarding the types of content smartphone users are accessing, researchers found that the primary types are weather information (47%), video (31%), local news (29%), and national news (24%).

“Over the past few years, there has been an undeniable shift in the way consumers access content and information as well as stay informed and entertained. Consumers now expect the world at their fingertips anytime, anywhere, and publishers have worked vigorously to optimize their mobile sites and create apps that cater to this demand and behavioral shift,” commented OPA president Pam Horan.

“Our study revealed that smartphones are providing a great monetization opportunity for publishers. With over half of smartphone users accessing content on a daily basis, this growing smartphone population is showing a willingness to pay for content. Twenty-four percent of users report that they have purchased any type of content for viewing on their smartphones.”

Aiming to assess smartphone users’ attitudes towards mobile advertising, the two research partners found that in the six months prior to the survey 39% of all smartphone content consumers who had seen a smartphone ad felt prompted to take some action. Fifteen percent have clicked through a smartphone ad, 12% have used a special offer or coupon, and 12% have made a purchase either on a PC or at a store.

Purchasers of smartphone content were a much more engaged and active audience, according to OPA: 79% have taken action after seeing an ad; 31% have clicked through an ad; 30% have used a special offer or coupon; 27% have made a purchase on a PC and 24% have made a purchase at a store as a direct result of an ad.

“Smartphone content purchasers are a substantial subset of the general smartphone population that is showing not only receptiveness to ads but also more positive opinions towards ads than smartphone content consumers as a whole,” Horan said.

“Twenty-nine percent of smartphone content purchasers indicate that smartphone ads are eye-catching, 26% report that ads are relevant and 25% report that ads are unique and interesting, compared to 17%, 15% and 14%, respectively, for all smartphone content consumers.”
Other key findings from OPA’s “A Portrait of Today’s Smartphone User” report include:

  • Large smartphone app market: 96% of smartphone content consumers downloaded apps in the past year, averaging 36 apps; 14% of all smartphone apps downloaded by those reporting are paid.
  • Android leads iOS: Android device penetration (46%) continues to lead iOS penetration (35%), with both platforms growing in share compared to last year; Blackberry and all other platform penetration share (16% and 11%, respectively) declined rapidly compared to last year (25% and 14%, respectively, in 2011).
  •  Smartphone users pay for content: 24% of smartphone users report that they have purchased content for viewing on their smartphones, with 22% of smartphone content buyers having purchased video, 21% entertainment content, 21% books and 19% weather content.
  • Smartphone is the preferred media device for many: 54% of multiple mobile device owners prefer using their smartphone for at least one of a range of activities over PC/laptops and tablets.
  • Smartphone users watch plenty of video: 68% of smartphone users who watch video on their smartphones regularly watch short-form news and entertainment videos, which includes news, sports, TV show and weather clips; the next largest smartphone video category is user-generated content (e.g. YouTube), with 57% of those who watch videos on smartphones watching those types of videos.
  • Smartphone users are cross-platform consumers: Smartphone users have strong cross-platform tendencies, with 84% identifying themselves as two-screen multitaskers (TV + mobile phone/tablet) and 64% identifying themselves as three-screen multitaskers (TV + PC + mobile phone/tablet).