U.S. Smartphone Sales among Consumers Earning Less than $30,000 Grow More Than 50 Percent, According to The NPD Group

PORT WASHINGTON, NEW YORK, APRIL 21, 2015 - As U.S mobile phones sales transition to predominately smartphones, buyers have become significantly older and less affluent.  For the third consecutive three month period ending February 2015, sales among consumers earning less than $30,000 per year grew by more than 50 percent.  This demographic is now the largest segment of the smartphones market, accounting for 28 percent of all sales.  In contrast, sales among consumers earning more than $100 thousand a year increased by just 24 percent. For the three months ending February 2015, buyers aged 55+ also represented 28 percent of all sales, up 24 percent from a year ago, and were the fastest growing age segment of the population.

Over the three month period ending in February, overall sales of mobile phones rose 28 percent compared to last year, while smartphone sales increased 35 percent. During the same three month period, the share of sales for non-smartphones declined to just 14 percent.

“The smartphone market continues to undergo radical changes, even as it approaches maturity in the U.S.  As older and less affluent buyers enter the market, the industry is increasingly offering pricing and service plans that match the needs of these demographics,” said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD. “With this changing customer base, we see an important catalyst for the shift in the competitive landscape. More installment payment options, lower upfront pricing,  an increase in availability of prepaid phones, and new data plans that increase certainty around the costs of the monthly phone bill, are surely a reaction to this flood of new customers entering the smartphone marketplace.”

Apple and Samsung accounted for two out of every three smartphones sold over the three month period, although Apple sales increased by 45 percent and Samsung’s just 10 percent.  iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus represented 57 percent of Apple sales, a somewhat weaker performance than the same period last year when the newest iPhones, the 5s and 5c, accounted for 63 percent of sales.  The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were most popular among the older demographic, with 69 percent of sales to consumers 55+, while only 46 percent of purchases made by customers ages 18-34 were the newest iPhone models. Less affluent consumers accounted for just 35 percent of sales for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and buyers earning over $100 thousand a year chose the newest iPhone more than two-thirds of the time.

“Both Apple and Samsung are seeing their customers shift with the overall market,” added Baker. “We are seeing Apple react with increased distribution, lower priced products, and more device choices in order to appeal to a wider audience.  Samsung continues to provide a wide range of choices for its customer and channel base, which continues to be broader in scope than its main competitor.   Samsung hopes to deliver increased penetration into the more affluent demographics with its updated and more premium Galaxy S6 line. Apple continues to see success in providing a range of devices, but still has a way to go to match Samsung’s strength with entry level consumers.” 

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