According to new numbers from research firm NPD Group, Americans love their smartphones. The firm said its second-quarter surveys (comprising 150,000 respondents) found that smartphones accounted for 28 percent of all handset sales in the United States in the quarter--a whopping 47 percent increase in the category's share since the same period last year.
However, the firm pointed out that feature phones (defined by the firm as not having an operating system--presumably an open one like BlackBerry or Windows Mobile) still command the lion's share of the U.S. cell phone marketplace. NPD found feature phones comprised 72 percent of the overall U.S. market in the second quarter, down 5 percent from the year-ago quarter.
Interestingly, the firm said LG enV2 (at Verizon Wireless) and Samsung Rant (at Sprint Nextel) were the two most popular feature phones in the quarter--notable since both devices sport Qwerty keyboards. (NPD noted that physical, rather that touchscreen, keyboards shipped on 35 percent of handsets sold in the quarter.)
"Feature phones are taking on more of the physical characteristics of smartphones, and often offer greater exposure to carrier services," Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis NPD. "Although their user interfaces continue to improve, the depth of their applications generally lags behind those of smartphones. With the price gap between smartphones and feature phones narrowing, to remain competitive feature phones need to develop a better Web experience, drive utility via widgets, and sidestep the applications arms race."
Other items of note, according to NPD data, showed that WiFi shipped on 20 percent of all new handsets. Further, touchscreens on both feature phones and smartphones also enjoyed major growth, with 26 percent of all new handsets purchased in the second quarter featuring the technology.
NPD's numbers are notable in light of a new report from Juniper Research predicting the market for mid-tier feature phones, wedged between low-cost handsets and high-end smartphones, will continue to shrink over the next few years. According to Juniper, low-cost phones and smartphones are expected to make up 79 percent of the worldwide handset market by 2014.
Indeed, the trend has already begun, according to research firm Gartner. The firm found smartphone sales surpassed 40 million units worldwide in the second quarter, a 27 percent increase from the same period last year. That's a significant chunk of the 286.1 million total phones sold in the quarter.
- see this NPD release
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