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Smartphones and music: making sense of the latest research

Smartphones and music: making sense of the latest research

The Pew Research Centre provides regular mobile and web user reports and its latest study (available here) reveals 64% of smarthphone users play music on their devices - an activity that ranks equally with playing games and higher than logging onto social networks (59% of smartphone users do so).

The Pew study also found 35% of US adults have a smartphone, but how younger consumers are represented here in the coming years (as competition drives down the cost of handsets) will be of particular importance for the music business.

As an encouraging sign of where the market can go, a separate study by Onavo has revealed a high correlation between smartphone owners and those who subscribe to Spotify. Mobile access being a fundamental part of Spotify's strategy to upsell users to its top tier (?9.99 a month in the UK and EUR9.99 a month is Europe) and its iPhone app appears to be delivering results.

While uptake in the UK (2.9% of iPhone users have Spotify), it is in Scandinavia where hugely encouraging trends are identifiable. In Norway, 13.1% of iPhone users subscribe to Spotify while in Sweden, Spotify's home country, this rises to 18.6%.

This may show smartphones are key in driving users to music services, but as a marketing channel they may have some distance to go. A study by comScore in the US has found just 6% of smartphone owners used their device to unlock a QR code. While QR is more advanced in Asian markets and ingrained in user behaviour, uptake in the West is still sluggish.

If smartphones and mobile internet are ever to truly harness impulse behaviour and purchasing potential, a great deal has still to be done to get the technology in front of consumers outside of early-adopting Asian markets.

Following Google's $12.5bn (?7.65bn) acquisition of Motorola Mobile (pending regulatory hurdles) this week, the smartphone market is about to make its next leap forward.

With its mobile operating system (Android) on 150m devices globally and the hardware side falling in place, Google can now compete with Apple and its iPhone/iOS combination on something approaching a level footing.

Genuine competition, once all the infrastructure and hardware pieces fall into place, can only be good for consumers and those music services piggybacking on the smartphone's rise.

Given the Onavo study's findings in Scandinavia and Pew's numbers from the US, a tantalising glimpse of mobile music's smartphone future could slowly be coming into focus.

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