Pew And Nielsen Say Smartphones Now 50 Percent, When Will ComScore Join The Club?

smartphonesEarlier this month, the Pew Internet & American Life Project (based on survey data) reported that smartphones were in the hands of 53 percent of US mobile phone owners.

Today Nielsen followed, proclaiming that 49.7 percent of mobile subscribers have smartphones. Roughly 48 percent have Android devices, while 32 percent have iPhones according to Nielsen. The other 20 percent own RIM, Windows and so on.

The Nielsen data are also based on consumer polling, though with a larger sample than used by Pew. However the Pew survey data are collected in a way that is supposed to be representative of the larger population.

By contrast, comScore says that US smartphone ownership is 43 percent. That number is now the outlier and quite a distance from the Nielsen and Pew figures. How do we account for that? I think comScore is incorrect and that we can now say with confidence that half the US mobile population has a smartphone.

But what does that mean in terms of actual numbers of people?

As of June, 2011 the wireless trade group CTIA said there were 322.8 million “wireless subscriber connections” in the US — more than the population as a whole. Some people obviously have two or more accounts. For its part, comScore uses a base of 234 million mobile phone owners 13 and over.

The four major US mobile carriers have roughly 300 million subscribers combined. The total US population is 312 million. We don’t know how many people have multiple accounts, but my guess is that it’s a relatively small slice of the total mobile population.

Clearly the comScore base of 234 million is too small and the CTIA number (again, greater than the US population) is too large. If we assume that a generous 20 percent of the US mobile population has two accounts — the figure is probably much higher than actual — then the appropriate base becomes something like 257 million.

Half of that 257 million would be 128 million people with smartphones in the US.

(Stock image via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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