Home Blog 2018 Getting Them Hooked – Lessons for phone OEMs, carriers, and handset manufacturers marketing to parents

The NPD Group Blog

Insights and Opinions From Analysts and Experts in More Than 20 Industries

I gave my daughter, Charlotte, her first phone when she was just five years old. It was hardly an appropriate age, but what’s the point of having kids if you cannot use them in the occasional social experiment. And besides, it was a cool little phone - a Firefly - that had mom and dad call buttons.  The phone gave us peace of mind when Charlotte was on play dates, but she very rarely hit the call button.

Several phones later (she requested a “real phone” quickly), Charlotte’s mobile life finally took off in fifth grade when all of her friends started getting phones, too. Suddenly, her world became a lot more private, leaving us - and our fellow parents - muttering about the similarities between Pandora’s box and mobile phones. And there was an obvious lesson for me: my kids don’t need a phone to call home, or perhaps don’t want to call home; ouch!

The choice of a Firefly phone ages me (and my daughter, who is now in college), and I’ve lost count of how many phones she has gone through by this point. But it appears that apart from some serious advances in phone technology in the past 12 years, the age-appropriateness remains quite similar. Indeed, in many respects, advances in technology may be a limiting factor: I recall the Firefly phone costing less than $100; but today, everyone needs a smartphone, which means shelling out $500 or more to connect your children.

 

At what age did you give your child their first phone?

Chart

Source: Civic Science, February 2018. Base: 633 parents who have children


So while roughly 11 percent of parents hand out a phone to the under tens, the biggest adoption bump remains between the ages of 9 and 11, exactly when Charlotte’s friend all started to get their first phones 12 years ago. And this makes sense as it is when our little babies have to grow up a bit, moving from relatively small elementary schools up to the “big league” of middle school. It’s a daunting time for the kids, and downright terrifying for many parents if it is the first child to make the leap.

It is also the point when kids need a phone as so much more of their day-to-day school life revolves around technology, from Google Classroom to Chromebooks. And when it turns out that there are too few Chromebooks for the number of kids in the class, being able to whip out your phone is essential.

So there are a few lessons here for phone OEMs and carriers. From a carrier perspective, marketing to parents of fifth graders is a strong move. The timing is a little tricky as it is too late to wait for the “back to school” period as these kids migrate to middle school, and targeting too soon, as part of the fourth to fifth year move seems premature. Which makes me think that we are in the appropriate time now, somewhere around the middle of the school year.

For the handset manufacturers, there is perhaps an opportunity to build products that are more relevant for the younger kids. There have been several attempts at this market over the years, ranging from the Firefly to wearables, but none of them have really hit the mark as being “sophisticated” yet durable and small. In many ways, I think I’m describing a good old flip phone, but one that has been dragged into the twenty-first century so that the kids still consider it a “real” phone. We’ll be scouring Mobile World Congress next week to see if we can find any good examples.



Related Blog Posts


June 20, 2018

The Way of Android

While wandering the streets of Tokyo this past weekend, I came up with a theory that a city - and the people within it - is made up of alternating layers of the strange and the expected.

June 19, 2018

Mobile Payments, Not Rocket Science

NPD Connected Intelligence President, Eddie Hold, explains what makes mobile payments much simpler in other countries and speculates why the U.S. has been slower to adopt mobile payment solutions.

May 29, 2018

Innovation Management – Whacking Piñatas

According to NPD’s U.S. B2B Software and Cloud Tracking Service, one of the fastest growing markets of software is the content and collaboration market. NPD’s Mike Diamond explores how innovation and the need for information management is driving this growth.

May 22, 2018

The Future of Cloud – The Ultimate Trojan Horse

Mike Diamond, Director, Industry Analysis, B2B Technology for The NPD Group, discusses the opportunities that cloud has created for channel partners.

Newsletter

Subscribe and get key market trends and insights relevant to your industry each month.

We will not sell your information. View privacy notice.

Follow Us

© The NPD Group, Inc.