These increases indicate a greater proliferation of smartphones into the general consumer (i.e., non-business) market, says Mark Donovan, senior analyst at comScore. "In just this little snapshot, you can see the core shifts in the fundamental market," Donovan says. "I think what we see in this data is a shift to higher-end devices. Even if you don't have an iPhone, all of the ads they're running show what phones are capable of and what people can do with them."
While smartphones such as the iPhone and BlackBerry Curve were not among the top 10 devices used for mobile downloads in 2007, last year, six out of 10 were smartphones, Donovan says. Moreover, the number of smartphone users who downloaded games increased nearly 300%, while downloads among people with so-called "feature" phones decreased 14% during the same period.
IPhone users accounted for the most game downloads--as nearly one-third of them said they downloaded a game in November 2008, compared with a market average of 3.8% of all mobile users. Apple, Donovan notes, created an application sales platform that looks like iTunes, which makes downloading simpler and easier.
"They created a really easy way to get content on your phone," he says--noting that demographics have also broadened, with the teen and over-35 groups showing strong growth in downloads. "As the mobile phone has evolved into a better platform for both playing and merchandising games, the games being offered have also been improved, drawing in a broader user base," Donovan says.
And as more consumers switch to smartphones or devices with smartphone functionality (like Samsung's Instinct), marketers would do well to look at the space as one to develop along with other platforms, Donovan says. "If a brand is sponsoring an application or content on a smartphone, they're probably going to have to tie it into their overall marketing program," he says.