eMarketer: Canada Edges Out US in Smartphone Penetration

More advanced devices means more access to mobile coupons, barcodes

JUNE 16, 2011 – The rise of the smartphone has accelerated mobile marketing around the world. Though that rise has happened at different paces from country to country, the pace in Canada has picked up, with smartphones currently in the hands of a third of mobile users. For the many brands that manage their mobile presence in both the US and Canada, it pays to know how usage is developing north of the border.

According to comScore, there were 6.6 million smartphone owners in Canada as of March 2011, or 33% of the total mobile subscriber base. This places Canada among the world�s leaders in smartphone adoption, narrowly edging out the US, where eMarketer estimates 31% of mobile owners have a smart device. A March survey conducted by Quorus Consulting for the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association mirrors that figure, also finding that 33% of Canada�s mobile phone users have a smartphone.

Meanwhile, related research by Ipsos Reid expands the smartphone base to nearly a third of all internet users in Canada, a figure which has grown more than 50% since early 2010.

Younger generations are leading the shift, as 46% of internet users ages 18 to 34 have already made the switch to smartphones, according to Ipsos. The CWTA found that penetration spikes at 55% among mobile phone users ages 18 to 24.

Usage is likewise growing more sophisticated. Talking is now a secondary consideration, with the Ipsos survey finding that 54% of all smartphone usage is for something other than voice calls. One-fifth of Canada�s smartphone owners access the internet on their devices more than 5 hours per week.

Smartphones are also helping to spread awareness of QR codes and other barcode formats. According to the CWTA, 65% of smartphone users are aware of 2-D barcodes, while 28% have scanned one with their phone.

For marketers, the smartphone�s emergence means that Canada�s mobile base grows more viable as an advertising channel with each passing month. The CWTA survey found that 19% of smartphone users would be interested in receiving mobile coupons in exchange for viewing ads, compared to only 9% of feature phone users. When asked about interest in location-based mobile offers, the figure jumped to 44% of smartphone users.

“[Smartphone growth] is transforming the way Canadians interact with each other and with brands, offering businesses new and innovative ways to connect with their customers,” said Steve Mossop, president of Ipsos Reid�s Western Canada practice, in a statement. “Marketers need to consider how mobile fits in to their overall plans of how to reach consumers if they are going to succeed in the digital marketplace.”

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