5G and battery life drive smartphone purchasing decisions

'Battery life' is the highest-ranking feature for buying smartphones in Australia, Great Britain, Italy, Spain and the United States.
10 May 2021
Martin Guo 2015

Editor in Chief, Kantar China Insights, China

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Kantar, the world’s leading data, insights and consulting company, today revealed its smartphone OS data for the first quarter of 2021. This quarter following iPhone 12 series launch has delivered YoY growth for iOS across EU5 (+3.6% pts), USA (+4.9% pts.) and Australia (+3.5% pts.). Coupled with Huawei continuing to haemorrhage sales in all reported markets, Android struggles to keep up despite some strong sales share growth among individual brands.

Jennifer Chan, Insight Director at Kantar, Worldpanel Division comments “Of reported markets, iOS has the greatest share growth in Germany; reaching 29.8% sales share, up 8.5% pts YoY, iPhone was 3 of the Top 5 selling models (iPhone 11, iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro Max). An impressive outcome when compared to the same quarter last year, with just iPhone 11 making it into the Top 5 models sold.

iOS also demonstrates strong growth in USA at 45.6% sales share, up 4.9% pts YoY. All Top 5 models sold are iPhone; iPhone 12, iPhone 11, iPhone SE (2nd generation) and the two iPhone 12 Pro models. This demonstrates the breadth of iPhone’s portfolio across price bands to broaden consumer appeal.

Chan continues, “despite challenges in Android’s overall performance in Q1 2021, there is strong sales share growth among individual brands. Samsung YoY sales share is up in Great Britain (+4.7% pts), Italy (+3.6% pts), France (+2.3% pts), and Spain (+1.6% pts). Performance is supported by the launches of Galaxy S20 series in March 2020, followed by the prompt launch of Galaxy S21 series in January 2021. In Great Britain, Australia and USA there are more Samsung premium/super premium tier models in the Top 10 models sold than the same quarter in the previous year.

In Q1 2021, Chinese brands continue to perform well locally and in European markets; at least 1 in 4 smartphones sold in Italy are Xiaomi (up 4% pts YoY) and it is also 36.7% of smartphone sales in Spain, near flat performance YoY. Oppo continues to grow in China with 11% sales share (+2.7% pts. YoY) and demonstrates its expansion into more markets reaching 5% of sales share in Spain, Italy and Japan.

In Japan, 57.4% of smartphones sold are Android (+6.2% pts YoY), performance being driven by the launch of Sharp’s Aquos Sense 4 series. iPhone SE (2nd generation) still proves to be the most popular model; although having launched a year ago (April 2020) it will be interesting to see whether the position as number 1 model sold will continue to be held.

Chan continues, “So what device specific features drive consumers to buy? We’ve long been talking about “screen size” (although still the case in France and Japan) and “quality of the camera” (although still the case in Germany) being the highest-ranking driver. However, there have been some shifts in the rankings with “Battery life” being the highest-ranking feature for buying smartphones in Australia, Great Britain, Italy, Spain and the USA. More specifically, the growth of “battery life” as a driver across EU5 is the “speed of charging” and in China the “length of battery life”.

While “camera quality” hasn’t grown as a reason YoY, it still ranks in the Top 3 across EU5 and Australia. More specifically, “Dual/Multi lens camera”, “Quality of the rear camera” and “Quality of photos in low light”. Unlike other markets, “Selfie camera” ranks higher in China than in other markets. In the USA, “camera quality” moves from ranking 3rd to 4th, overtaken by “Features of OS” (more specifically, the features of the OS that have grown YoY was “in built voice assistant” and “organizing apps/folders”. It appears USA is not the only market to see an increase in the proportion of people buying for “Features of OS” with five other of the nine reported markets and narrowing in on these OS features “OS Cloud/Back up storage” sees an uptick in most markets. The on-going buzz and rising availability of 5G enabled smartphones/tariff plans continues to translate across all reported markets with a higher proportion of smartphones being purchased for its “5G Capability” vs. this time last year.

Chan continues, “thinking about the future purchasing outlook for the rest of the year, over the next six months between 13% to 20% of smartphone owners intend to purchase a smartphone; the lower share being France and the higher share being Italy. iPhone is the No.1 preferred brand in USA, Australia, Japan and Great Britain. In the EU5 markets, with the exception of Great Britain, Samsung is the most preferred brand and it’s Huawei in China.

Manufacturers should be driving online as a means to build consumer touchpoints before they purchase. Consumers are researching online to prepare for their smartphone purchase. In all reported markets, except in France, consumers visit manufacturer websites to get information. The importance of cost is also demonstrated through the use of price comparison websites in 6 of the 9 reported markets.

Network carriers are still important in the USA, with purchasers using both website and in-store as a means to research. Finally, we cannot underestimate the influence of Earned touch points with asking friends/customer reviews appearing in the top 3 pre-purchase research methods in seven of the nine markets reported.

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