Smartphone penetration reaches 68% in Canada

"We haven't quite reached ubiquity, but we're pretty close," says Jeff Lancaster, CEO of study co-author Catalyst. "It's a wake up call for Canadian brands."

Smartphone ownership by Canadians is up 13% year-over-year, with 68% of Canadians now owning the devices, according to a new report.

The data comes from With Growth Comes Change: The Evolving Canadian Mobile Landscape, produced by search marketing agency Catalyst and GroupM Next and presented Thursday at the IAB Canada Engage conference.

“We haven’t quite reached ubiquity, but we’re pretty close,” says Jeff Lancaster, CEO of Catalyst. “It’s a wake up call for Canadian brands.”

Surveying 1,100 Canadian smartphone users, the study was broken into three categories: “On the Go,” “At Home” and “At Work.”

The study’s authors identified an increase in smartphone use at home, most significantly in the case of millennials (18-to-24-year-olds), who spend a higher percentage of time than any other group using their phones at home.

This, Lancaster says, may be the most important fact of the study, and should have marketers asking themselves, “how are we adapting to address this?”

Those polled also reported being more selective with the apps they download, and quicker to dump apps they no longer want.

Since 2014, average monthly app downloads have decreased by 53%, while average app uninstalls rose by 29%. Additionally, the report showed that smartphone users now have on average 19 apps on their phones, which has fallen from 26 from the previous year.

Canadian marketers should take note of the decreasing use of apps, Lancaster notes.

“The Canadian consumer with mobile is maturing,” he says. “So unless your app is providing huge value and utility to the consumer, most likely it’s not going to be a core app people will keep on their phone.”

The past six months has also seen a flourish among first time buyers, with 3 million Canadians reportedly purchasing smartphones.

The 25-to-34 and 45-to-54 demos showed the biggest increase in smartphone penetration. Across all demographics though, the report showed decreased “on the go” usage over last year. The report speculated that the decline is due to people’s frustrations with battery life, screen size and data limits, in that order.