Market research firm TNS predicts an end to the mobile sales slump next year, with more than half (53%) of Americans planning to buy a new cell phone in the next six months compared to only 24% a year ago.
More feature-laden phones especially stand to benefit from the turnaround, with 29% planning to purchase a touchscreen device, and 23% looking to get handsets equipped with Qwerty keyboards, according to the TNS survey of more than 24,000 consumers in 35 international markets.
"Increased consumer confidence, pent-up demand and a raft of new smartphones have created conditions akin to a 'perfect storm' for 2010, and the industry stands to make out handsomely," said Tom Buehrer, senior vice president of TNS, in a statement. The rising level of purchase intent combined with demand for higher-end phones provides the industry with an opportunity to boost device sales and continue to incease revenue from data services.
Mobile data revenue in the U.S. increased 27% in the third quarter from a year ago to $11.4 billion, according to wireless industry research firm Chetan Sharma. The spread of smartphones, which has helped to drive mobile data use, has been a bright spot for the industry in 2009. While worldwide cell phone sales overall were essentially flat in the third quarter, the smartphone segment increased 12.8% from the year-earlier period.
Separate findings released by comScore Thursday showed that Android-powered devices are gaining ground among smartphone buyers. Some 17% plan to get some type of Android phone, whether a Verizon Droid or the T-Mobile myTouch, in the next thee months. That's close to the 20% who indicated an iPhone was in their future.
But BlackBerry phones continued to dominate, with 48% planning to buy one of five models including the BlackBerry Curve, which was the most sought-after device overall, cited by 18% of smartphone buyers. Only 2% named the Palm Pre, which has not sustained strong early sales. In addition to phones, TNS projects that netbook sales will pick up steam next year, with 19% planning to get one in the next six months. The same proportion is eyeing a a new notebook computer, while only 5% want to buy a desktop model.
One potential stumbling block to a mobile rebound in 2010 is consumers being overwhelmed with the ever-growing number and variety of handheld devices to sort out in making a purchasing decision. More than a quarter (27%) of U.S. consumers cited a lack of user-friendliness as a barrier to using some of the newer mobile services offered.
There is also the looming problem of strained wireless networks as more cell subscribers use phones as multimedia devices. "The sheer number of phones on the market means that network quality is deteriorating as operators struggle to cope with data overload," noted Buehrer. The spread of netbooks, e-readers and other mobile devices will only add to the challenges that carriers face in handling the increased data traffic.