Canadians not so smart about smartphones – study

A study from Toronto-based Delvinia reveals that Canadians are largely unaware of their smartphones' more advanced features - and aren't as concerned about it as you might think.

Smart as their phones may be, Canadians largely aren’t using them to their full potential, a new survey from Toronto-based data collection and interactive agency Delvinia reveals. 

The agency released the results of two surveys by the agency’s proprietary ‘Asking Canadians’ panel on consumers mobile phone usage conducted last fall and this January. ‘Managing the Hype: The reality of mobile in Canada’ yields some interesting insights about mobile and smartphone use by Canadians.

The takeaways: Canadians are far behind other countries in mobile feature adoption, so marketers should focus on mobile as but one touchpoint in their media plans and marketing strategies, and when it is incorporated, keeping it simple is likely a good thing.

It appears we are most happy simply talking on our phones. Eighty-nine percent of mobile and smartphone users polled in the survey said they use their phones for phone calls, with clock/alarm coming in second at 56% and text messaging coming in third at 52%.

Down at the bottom of the list: Facebook and Twitter Mobile, contests and search. The top three weren’t any different when 18- to 30-year-olds (referred to as ‘NGen’ in the study) were isolated, although the bottom of the list was identical, albeit with different percentages. Twitter Mobile ranked last on both lists, with only 6% of users saying they used their phones to access it.

The low ranking of features such as Twitter and Facebook may in part be attributed to the fact that smartphone ownership has yet to really penetrate that market in a significant way. Thirty-eight percent of NGen’s polled owned one of those devices, while the boomer demo (45 to 65 year olds) was only at 26%. The low penetration of smartphones in Canada can most likely be attributed to the long-term contracts most Canadians sign when purchasing a phone, which lengthens the amount of time between purchases, Randy Matheson, director, emerging media platforms, Delvinia, said in the report.

The report then broke down smartphone feature usage in four categories: GPS, applications, games and cameras. When asked whether or not their phones had a GPS feature, 38% of NGen smartphone users polled said they weren’t sure, a similar percentage of both Gen Xers (31 to 44 year olds) and Boomers. Twenty-six percent of those over 65 years old said their phones had GPS, but 100% said they had never used it. And the low usage wasn’t limited to that demo: 41% of NGeners also admitted to never having used it.

And while apps may be the hottest thing going among marketers, the Delvinia survey found that many Canadian smartphone users don’t really know what the difference is between mobile web and apps. Fifty percent of those surveyed said they had never downloaded an app at all. For those who do download apps, the most popular type were games, with social networking/instant messaging in second place and music third.

‘Marketers must recognize that creating a downloadable mobile application may not always be the way to meet their objectives through the mobile channel,’ Jim Morrison, director, technology, Delvinia, said in the report. ‘And when an application is the right tactic, making it entertaining and keeping it simple is important.’

Other interesting finds from the report include that while Canadians like using the cameras on their smartphones, they aren’t using their phone’s functionality to share them on social networks. Almost 60% of those polled said they show their photos to friends in person, while 18% reported using mobile messaging services to share, 15% use Facebook Mobile and only 1% use Twitter Mobile.

The survey was done in two parts, first polling 5,680 people in Delvinia’s Asking Canadians panel last fall, and then following up this January with another study focusing on 1,000 ‘statistically representative’ smartphone owners from the previous poll.