Kids want "cool" phones, not baby devices

As cell phone penetration rises among the tween market, the age for first-time cell phone users is dropping. A new study from research firm iGR says that 50 percent to 70 percent of 12- to 14-year-olds have their own cell phone and a significant number of 5- to 9-year-olds have their own phones. This latest report is a follow-up to a report the firm did two years ago in which it predicted that 4 million tweens would own cell phones by 2009.

iGR now believes that the battleground for handset manufacturers and mobile operators is among children age 10 and under. "This study shows that although there are still significant opportunities with the tween and teen segments, the target age groups are getting younger and younger," says Iain Gillott, founder and president of iGR.

Parents are making the purchase decision for these children and paying for the service and the device, however these 5- to 9-year-olds still have opinions about what they want and how they use a cell phone. Most use it to stay in touch with their friends and their parents. Like their older counterparts, iGR found that the "cool" factor and peer pressure ranked high in handset design and kids shy away from handset designs that they perceive as being "baby-ish" or geared toward young children.

iGR recommends that handset makers leverage the parents' brand familiarity into same-brand handset sales for the teen/tween and younger children. In addition, iGR suggests that handset makers and carriers leverage parental control functionality and location-based services because these features ranked high with parents.

For more on the iGR study:
- see this press release