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Feature Phones to Smartphones – Upgrading in Emerging Markets


Posted by , September 14th, 2013

As the World Bank reported back in July 2012 of the 6 billion pre and post paid mobile phones in the world, 5 billion of them can be found in developing and emerging markets.

As companies like Microsoft and Nokia work to release low cost smartphone devices in these markets we were curious to know if our users were interested in upgrading their phones, what they look for and what will stop them from upgrading.

Interestingly enough 52% of 22,000 users who participated from over 200 countries told us they already have a smartphone, when, based on our own internal statistics, we know that most of them actually have feature phones and not smartphones. So a second question was posed: What makes your phone a “smartphone”. Of those 52%, half said that the fact that they could access the internet, use a camera or get on social networks with their phone meant they have a smartphone. This brought our feature phone user base to 75% of those surveyed.

Although 33% of say they have no plans to upgrade, 22% would like to get a smartphone within the next month. The biggest hindrance to their plans? The cost of the phone. However when looking for a new device, it was not at the top of the list of importance when deciding on a phone, with technology, operating system and available apps trumping price and ease of use.

Microsoft will be happy to know that a majority of users would upgrade to a Nokia device, although with operating system and available apps being an important factor it will be interesting to see if they pursue a Windows OS in these markets and abandon the Asha platform, which is used on the low end Nokias in India.

Users in emerging markets are far more likely to be on a prepaid data plans and 53% of our users indicated that they currently purchase less that 1GB per month, and only 13% feel the need to increase their data plans to over 1GB if they upgraded.

With a massive amount of data collected from this survey we are still studying it to see the differences in regions and other demographics, however we have pulled some key top level points and created the infographic below: