Feature phones still outshine smartphones in key countries

Feature phones are tops in countries where the smartphone networks still need time to expand, says Nielsen.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read
Kyocera's Durapro feature phone.
Kyocera's Durapro feature phone. Kyocera

Smartphones may be hot in the U.S. and U.K, but feature phones dominate in such countries as India and Russia, according to the folks at Nielsen.

Released today, Nielsen's "2013 Mobile Consumer Report" found that smartphone owners make up the majority of mobile phone users in nations such as the U.S., the U.K., South Korea, and China.

But in other countries, the networks required to support smartphones are still limited to large urban areas. As a result, the standard feature phone remains the top choice in regions such as India, Brazil, and Russia. But that trend could eventually start to swing.

Younger mobile users around the world are the ones most likely to be drawn to smartphones. As those people age and make up a greater slice of the consumer base, more countries may be spurred to expand their smartphone networks.

Among people surveyed for the report, smartphone ownership was cited by 53 percent of those in the U.S., 61 percent in the U.K., 67 percent in South Korea, and 66 percent in China. But only 10 percent in India, 19 percent in Turkey, 36 percent in Brazil, and 37 percent in Russia said they owned a smartphone.

Nielsen also found a difference in smartphone plans based on country.

People in areas with a higher percentage of smartphone owners tend to opt for fixed-price data plans. Those in countries with a small percentage of smartphone users were more inclined to use pay-as-you-go plans or simply rely on Wi-Fi to get connected.

Many people across different countries also own more than one mobile phone, in some cases one for work and one for home. A full 51 percent of people in Russia said they own more than one phone, while only 17 percent of those in the U.S. said the same.

And what are people across the globe doing with their smartphones?

Text messaging, Web browsing, and using social networks proved the most popular activities among most of the countries included in the report. Games, social-networking apps, and navigation apps were tops in mobile software across a majority of countries.

Nielsen's report analyzed the behavior and device preferences among consumers in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Brazil, China, India, Italy, Russia, South Korea, and Turkey.

From April to June 2012, Nielsen interviewed 76,204 mobile users, 54,585 of which were able to identify their mobile phone. Among those, 28,103 said they owned a smartphone and 26,482 owned a non-smartphone.