A recent Nielsen report has highlighted that the use of smartphones in India is becoming the primary mode for the majority of the country’s 900 million mobile phone subscribers to stay connected. 

Nielsen Informate Mobile Insights, an alliance between Nielsen and Informate Mobile Intelligence, polled more than 10,000 consumers in September and October 2012 across 46 cities in India to assess overall usage and device preferences.

As per the Nielsen report, as many as 40 million smartphones may have been in use early this year in India. The report attributes this dramatic growth to a desire among users to stay connected and have instant access to social networking sites, a global trend that represents an exponential growth opportunity in developing countries.

Decreasing device and data costs coupled with a wide range of features readily encourage consumers to trade their traditional cellphones for handsets with much more functionality. 


Smartphones are the primary mode used to stay connected (Image credit: Getty Images)

The study found that 93 percent of smartphone users own only one handset, making it their sole source of infotainment on the go. It also found that smartphone users in India greatly prefer mobile devices that operate on the Android operating system, which highlights the Indian consumers’ desire for a platform that is open and available across multiple brands and prices. While Symbian usage is also high in India, Windows, BlackBerry and iOS devices each have single-digit market shares.

Tablet ownership is set to spike

Consumer interest in tablets is also on the rise. While only three percent of respondents who participated in the study held in the last quarter of 2012 said they owned a tablet, 11 percent said they intended to purchase one. Consumers are also spending notably more time – around an hour more – on their tablets than on their Android smartphones.

Smartphone users prefer paying for games, chat and music apps

The study found that voice and text communication via smartphone in India is declining. In fact, voice calls and texting accounted for only 25 percent of smartphone usage. Multimedia, games, apps and Internet browsing made up the rest. Consumers prefer games, particularly with respect to paid apps. Games were the most popular category among paid apps, with nearly three out of five users (58 percent) paying for games. Other popular paid app categories among smartphone users include chat and instant messaging (53 percent) and streaming music (45 percent).

Many users still don’t have mobile Internet access

Mobile Internet connectivity and smartphone usage go hand in hand, but only half of the smartphone users polled have active data access. While this percentage may be significantly higher than the mobile data penetration for feature phone users, it indicates that millions of smartphone users still don’t have access to mobile Internet connectivity.

It is interesting to note that the youth are quick to adopt data connectivity on their smartphones, as more than half of all data users are younger than 25.

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