Ringing in the changes: Mobile phone market returns to growth in 2014

May 13, 2015

While sales of mobile phones have been in decline since 2011, new research from Mintel has found signals of recovery in the mobile phone market. Indeed, the value of the market fell from £1.71 billion in 2011 to £1.62 billion in 2013, but latest research from Mintel estimates the market grew by 3% in 2014 to reach £1.66 billion. Furthermore, the market is predicted to post continued growth in the next five years to reach £1.75 billion in 2019.

Explaining this rise, Mintel’s research has found that shorter contracts are pushing the right buttons for consumers. Indeed, the proportion of consumers taking 24-month contracts which can restrict potential for annual handset upgrades has dropped, with 16-24s favouring 12-month or rolling month-by-month deals. Whilst over half (52%) of Brits with a mobile phone contract or post-pay connection have a 24-month contract and 17% have a 12 month contract, the proportion of 16-24-year-olds on a 12 month contract rises to 24%.

Today, three quarters (75%) of Brits own a smartphone, up from 56% in 2012.

The proportion of Brits owning a smartphone in future could rise to 88%

Paul Davies, Senior Leisure and Technology Analyst at Mintel, said:

“Whilst migration to post-pay contracts – and longer 24-month deals at that – had caused the value of the UK mobile phones market to deteriorate, resulting in suggestions that it may have saturated, the industry has defied expectations. The market continues to benefit from the expanding popularity of smartphones, with more people expected to purchase their first handset over the next few years and looking ahead, the industry is expected to perform solidly.”

Furthermore, of UK consumers who do not own a smartphone, just half (50%) say they do not intend to own one in the future. Taking this into account, the proportion of Brits owning a smartphone in future could rise to 88%.

However, it seems that price is large factor for those who do not already own a smartphone. Two in five (39%) of those who don’t own a smartphone but intend to in the future, or don’t know if they will, say they do not currently own one because they are waiting for smartphones to come down in price. In addition, Mintel’s research shows that of those who have an intention of owning one in the future, or don’t know if they will, the average spend of potential owners amounts to £93.80.

“Although not a lucrative target market, first-time buyers represent an attractive target market for those brands looking to grow their operating system share from a relatively small base. Raising awareness of the affordability of low-end smartphones could help to speed up the rate of upgrades from basic or feature phones.” Paul continues.

Finally, whilst the proportion of UK consumers owning a basic mobile phone has fallen from over half (54%) in 2012 to 29% in 2014, it seems there is still a demand for the more traditional model. Of those who own both a smartphone and a basic mobile phone, two in five (42%) say they own their basic mobile phone to use as a backup in case their smartphone dies.

Press review copies of the Mobile Phones, UK 2015 report and interviews with Senior Leisure and Technology Analyst Paul Davies are available on request from the press office.

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