Best Buy Mobile Survey Reveals America's Appetite for Smartphones and the Killer Apps They Can't Live Without


June 30, 2009 12:48 PM Eastern Daylight Time 

MINNEAPOLIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Best Buy Mobile commissioned a survey revealing that a large portion of adults in America plan to buy a smartphone in the next 12 months. However, many barriers stand in their way, including confusion about the technology, the shopping experience and price. The poll of 1,000 Americans, half men and half women all over the age of 18, was conducted by telephone May 29-31 by GfK Roper, a division of GfK Custom Research North America, to obtain a snapshot of current habits, preferences and purchase intentions among today's mobile phone users.

Growing hunger for smartphones

The category of smartphones - mobile devices with computer functionality - has become a cornerstone for Best Buy Mobile, now in 1,067 U.S. locations both within traditional Best Buy stores as well as in standalone units. The GfK survey demonstrates many of the drivers and barriers to Americans' smartphone purchases.

Only one in five of adults surveyed already owns a smartphone, but a sizable segment of those in their 20's and 30's in particular consider it a purchase they plan to make in the year ahead.

Of adults who do not yet own a smartphone, nearly half (47%) claimed they are too confused by the vast assortment of models and features. Barriers to smartphone ownership include the difficulty with the shopping experience, confusion about models and expense.

  • 39% do not own a smartphone because they hate shopping for electronics products, with 45% of women in particular expressing this concern.
  • 52% of women and 42% of men are confused about which model smartphone to buy, and more than half (53%) of adults over 50 express this confusion.
  • 64% of Americans say they do not own a smartphone because they believe the devices are too expensive. This sentiment is particularly felt in the South.

"The good news for customers who shop with Best Buy Mobile is that we offer a choice of the major smartphones on the market from nine of the major carriers and unbiased, non-commissioned pros to guide consumers through the devices, features and services that may be right for them," said Scott Moore, vice president of marketing for Best Buy Mobile. "We offer free upgrade checks to anyone currently using any form of mobile service, so customers can see if they're eligible to get a smartphone; and in many cases, there are special promotional deals along with our everyday instant rebates. We want everyone to have a smartphone."

Applications, real-time connectivity put smartphones on a pedestal

Traditional mobile phones have been characterized largely by the twin features of calling and texting. Interest in smartphones has centered around a wider universe of applications that allow consumers to read digital books, film videos, get directions from any current location, make travel reservations, download real-time content from the Internet and much more.

For those surveyed who own smartphones, the most important features are accessing information from the Internet, sending messages and taking digital photos. More than half (58%) feel it is important to be able to listen to music on their mobile phone. Forty-one percent feel it is important to be able to engage in social networking such as Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. And 36% said being able to play games is important.

"Standard mobile phones offer people an ideal way to stay connected for both professional or personal purposes," Moore added. "However, smartphones take that connectivity to a new, more exciting level. The variety of features and tools that smartphones bring to consumers, allows them to stay close to family, friend and business partners through the method that most suits their needs - whether it is voice, texting, instant messaging or the Internet.

When it comes to which features are most in-demand, there is a gender divide. Seventy-one percent of women said sending text messages is "very important" compared to 46% of men. Taking digital photos with a phone was also "very important" to 55% of women compared to 30% of men. Women also shared that listening to music on their mobile device is "very important" (44%) compared to only 25% of men.

Men surveyed were more likely than women (46% versus 39%) to say that it is very important that their phones have calendar applications that link back to their computers. But in nearly all instances, women considered features and applications - including video games - "very important" more than men did. Fourteen percent of women ranked playing games as very important compared to 9% of men. Men were also clearly less interested than women in reading books on their phone: all of the 8% of respondents that were very interested in this application were women.

Women were also more likely than men to use their mobile phone's GPS system. Fifty-one percent of women, compared to 33% of men, considered getting directions on their phone "very important."

With all the applications that entice those in the younger age ranges, there is still a perception among some that smartphones are more for business than pleasure. Almost half (49%) of Americans without smartphones now believe that people who use smartphones are too connected to their jobs at all times, particularly the older generations who tend to view smartphones as more functional than fun. Only 30% of adults 18-24 feel this way versus 60% of adults 35-49.

The secret lives of a texting nation

Whether using traditional number keys, slide-out or built-in keyboards or even touch-screen typing, an overwhelming majority of Americans prefer text messaging as a quick and convenient way to communicate. And this affinity for the written word in the hands of mobile phone users provided some provocative statistics.

Of all Americans with mobile phones, 62% say they use text messaging, mostly because it's a convenient and quick way to communicate. More than one-third (37%) say they use texting to avoid long or tough conversations, and over one-quarter (27%) say they use it because they dislike talking on the phone. One-quarter feel it's a great way to flirt, particularly among the 18-24-year-old set (39%).

One in four of American mobile phone users surveyed admitted they have spied and read someone else's text messages without permission. This includes looking at the messages of spouses, partners, friends or even their own kids.

Nearly 38% said they had sent a text message to the wrong person by mistake. Texting leaves a lot of room for interpretation by the recipient, and 37% say they've been misunderstood by a person receiving their text message.

One-fourth of Americans (23%) admitted to "TWI," or texting while intoxicated, and 30% of men and 18% of women said they regretted something they had written in a text message.

"We send our customers out of the store with their smartphone loaded up with their personal and professional contacts, and we can show you special features to mitigate any embarrassing mistakes," said Moore of the store's Walk Out WorkingTM program. "Once it's in their hands on a day-to-day basis, it's up to consumers to use the device responsibly."

Going to extremes to maintain a mobile lifestyle

If caught in the rain with a choice of a mobile phone or an umbrella, nearly 37 percent of Americans would choose their mobile phone. Six in ten (60%) of those surveyed shared they would rather abstain from alcohol for a week than give up their mobile phone. One in three would give up television to keep their mobile phone. A passionate minority of 15% of Americans said they would rather have their teeth drilled at the dentist's office than give up their mobile phone for a week.

"It's clear Americans are fanatical about their phones and all the new features they can get on these remarkable devices," added Moore. "It's also very apparent that the mobile phone shopping experience hasn't been good for consumers in the past. We believe shopping for mobile devices should be fun. We trust that customers who are looking to get the most out of their mobile life will check out our stores and visit with our associates to see what mobile devices and programs may be right for their lifestyle needs."

Best Buy Mobile has become a leading destination for smartphone purchases, in part because of the following promises the store offers its customers:

  • Better choice of phones and networks
    Consumers can compare a wide selection of the top brands, the latest phones and all major networks. Depending on store format and carrier mix, Best Buy Mobile assorts more than 90 handsets.
  • Impartial, informed advice
    Mobile phone specialists help customers find the best mobile phones for individual or family needs.
  • Straightforward pricing
    Customers experience savings upfront with no mail-in rebates on the backend. The price customers see is the price they get.
  • There for the full life cycle of a phone
    Customers can choose from an array of service plans, phone repair options and helpful suggestions to get the most out of their mobile phones.

Best Buy Mobile offers an array of services aimed at improving the mobile phone buying experience. Some of these services include:

  • Upgrade Checker: A quick and easy in-store service that gives consumers the ability to see when they are eligible for their next phone upgrade. When the upgrade time is nearing, consumers receive a complimentary reminder call or email.
  • Walk Out WorkingTM: Free in-store smartphone setup by a Best Buy Mobile pro who will sync email accounts, set up BlueTooth® peripherals, transfer contacts and activate other services to allow the customer to leave the store with a fully functional new smartphone.

About Best Buy Mobile

Best Buy Mobile features one of the largest selections of carriers, handsets and accessories available anywhere, as well as a highly-trained staff to help customers make the most of their mobile phones. Best Buy Mobile locations feature more than 90 different handsets from nine carriers, and one of the widest assortments of accessories in retail. Employees undergo at least 80 hours of intensive training, as well as continuing education on mobile phone technology and trends.

About Best Buy Co., Inc.

With operations in the United States, Canada, Europe, China and Mexico. Best Buy is a multinational retailer of technology and entertainment products and services with a commitment to growth and innovation. The Best Buy family of brands and partnerships collectively generates more than $40 billion annual revenue and includes brands such as Best Buy, Audiovisions, The Carphone Warehouse, Future Shop, Geek Squad, Jiangsu Five Star, Magnolia Audio Video, Napster, Pacific Sales Kitchen, Bath and Electronic Centers, The Phone House and Speakeasy. Approximately 165,000 employees apply their talents to help bring the benefits of these brands to life for customers through retail locations, multiple call centers and Web sites, in-home solutions, product delivery and activities in our communities. Community partnership is central to the way we do business at Best Buy. In fiscal 2008, we donated a combined $31.8 million to improve the vitality of the communities where our employees and customers live and work. For more information about Best Buy, visit