Smartphone Ownership Just Shy Of 80 Percent [comScore]

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mobile apps, phone

Media measurement firm comScore just released its January mobile and app figures for the US market. Extrapolating from its panel, comScore estimates total smartphone ownership in the US at 79.1 percent of all mobile subscribers. Curiously, this is below the 79.3 percent reported for December 2015.

Month over month, there is now almost no movement in operating system market share numbers on comScore’s lists. It’s a kind of mirror of the search market, where figures remain largely unchanged sequentially.

comscore smartphone 2016

There’s a nine-point gap separating Android and iOS. Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS is flat (but declining longer-term), and there are still some BlackBerry devices around. The OS horse race is much less interesting than it used to be.

Facebook and Google continue, as they have for the past couple of years, to dominate the list of top apps — this is reach, not engagement or time spent. It’s quite interesting that YouTube and Google Play outrank the Google Search app. That’s something of a metaphor for differences in user behavior between the desktop and mobile.

comscore top apps

I keep waiting for smartphone figures to cross the 80-percent mark; in fact, they may have already. Smartphone penetration calculations depend on the size of the divisor or estimated base of mobile subscribers.

There is a range of estimates out there regarding the installed base of mobile users. CTIA, the wireless industry trade group, says mobile phone penetration in the US is 104 percent. That means effectively there would be more mobile phones (including “feature phones”) than people in the US — or well over 300 million handsets.

There are 198.5 million smartphone owners in the US today, according to comScore. If 300 million is the divisor, smartphone penetration would be a meager 66 percent. If the divisor is 250 million, the penetration figure would be 76 percent. If one uses the earlier divisor comScore once used to make this calculation, “234 million Americans age 13 and older,” penetration would be 84 percent. 

In mid-February, Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) estimated there were 110 million iPhones in the US. If iPhones truly are 44 percent of the market in the US, and the CIRP estimates are accurate, that would roughly mean a base of about 250 million mobile subscribers.

Regardless of which of the above figures is correct, the 80-percent threshold will be crossed by the time the March numbers are out. Later this year, we should see 85 percent smartphone penetration. Penetration rates exceeding 80 and even 90 percent already exist for populations under 40.

According to comScore, there are roughly 234 million desktop internet users in the US. I suspect by mid-2017 there will be more smartphone owners — the final “mobile takeover” milestone.


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

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