48% of Mobile Phones in the U.S. Are Now Smartphones, Up From Just 31% a Year Ago


The age of the feature phone, at least in the U.S., is slowly coming to an end. According to the latest data from market research firm Nielsen, smartphone penetration in the U.S. stood at 48% in January. That's up from 44% just a month earlier and up 17% from a year ago. Those numbers alone already show a pretty clear trend away from feature phones and towards more sophisticated devices. Nielsen, however, also took a look at how age and income influence consumers' choices in phones and there the story becomes even clearer.

Among those in the 24-34 age group, smartphone penetration is actually closer to 66%. Overall penetration is lower among other age groups, but looking at the choices of those who bought their phones over the last 3 months, there is a clear trend: 69% of those who recently bought a phone bought a smartphone. Among younger consumers (18-34), that number is closer to 80%.

SmartPhone Recent acquirers age1

There are, however, also significant differences between income groups. Unsurprisingly, those making over $100k are more likely to own a smartphone (which generally comes with more expensive rate plans) than those making $15k or less. This trend, too, holds true among age groups, though even the most affluent of those over 65 only choose a smartphone 38% of the time. What's interesting about this group, though, is that the difference between the more affluent and those with lower incomes is more pronounced that in any other age group. It's also worth noting, though, that 18 to 34 year olds making $15k or less are still more likely to own a smartphone than the most affluent seniors.

SmartPhone income and age1 1


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Nielsen: Digital Music Sales Edged Out CDs and Vinyl for the First Time in 2011


Spend enough time on the Internet and you would be forgiven to think that physical music sales died a long time ago. In the real world, though, plenty of people still by CDs (and a few buy vinyl as well). 2011 was a watershed year for digital music sales, though, as, according to Nielsen SoundScan's year-end report for 2011, in the U.S., digital sales finally trumped physical sales for the first time last year. Digital accounted for 50.3% of all music purchases in 2011. In total, 1.27 billion tracks and albums were downloaded last year. That's up 8.4% from 2010.

It's worth noting that the majority of these sales was for single songs. Albums only accounted for 103 million sales. That's up from 86.3 million in 2010, but digital albums still only account for every 1 out of 3 sales in 2011.

Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" set a record by becoming the first song to see more than five million downloads in one year with 5.8 million downloads (it was closely followed by LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" with 5.5 million downloads). In total, 112 digital songs exceeded the 1 million sales mark last year.


What these numbers obviously don't take into account is the rise of streaming music services. The rise of services like Spotify, MOG, Rdio and even the good old Rhapsody service may just eat into the rise of digital sales in 2012.

SoundScan does track streams, though. Lady Gaga, Rhianna and Nicki Minaj lead the pack here with between 125 to 135 million total streams. The most streamed song of 2011 was Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" (84 million streams).

7:25 pm

TV Ownership in U.S. Drops for 1st Time in 20 Years: Internet to Blame?


According to the latest estimates from Nielsen, TV ownership in the U.S. dropped from 98.9% to 96.7% over the last year. This is the first time these numbers have dropped since 1990. According to Nielsen, there are two reasons for this drop: 1) lower-income, rural households were not able to afford the necessary equipment for making the transition from analog to digital over-the-air TV and 2) as TV content becomes available on multiple devices, “a small subset of younger, urban consumers are going without paid TV subscriptions.”

Naturally, there will be some debate over the role the Internet plays in this, especially given the fact that Nielsen doesn’t offer any specific numbers to back up either of these assertions. My feeling, though, is that cord cutters who give up their cable subscriptions in favor of going Internet TV-only are only responsible for a small part of this drop in TV ownership and that the current economic climate is to blame for most of the drop.

Once You Cut the Cord, Any Screen Will Do

I would not be surprised, however, if the number of those who forgo TV ownership in favor of just using their 30-inch computer monitors or laptop screens would increase dramatically over the next few years. At the end of the day, a TV is just another screen, after all, and once you’ve cut the cord to your cable provider, you can just as well use any other screen in your household to watch TV content.

Image credit: Flickr user William Hook.

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