Getting Inside the Minds of Smartphone Shoppers

In Google's findings only one thing surprised me: Sprint customers used more data than AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon Wireless customers. Kyle Keogh, a technical director at Google, theorizes that Sprint's elimination of extra-cost data plans has encouraged more data usage. (Sprint now offers voice and data services in its standard plans, while AT&T and the others charge $30 or more per month extra for data service.)

What does this all mean? To me, it means that smartphone buyers have two main -- and related -- concerns.

First, they want a mobile platform that does what they know they want to do -- so they'll choose, for example, a BlackBerry if their interest is primarily messaging or an iPhone if they want to use the Web and run applications in addition to doing messaging. Thus, most users are going to commit to a specific platform and choose a model within it.

In contrast, regular cell phone users are typically focused on what's cool at the moment. Google's search analysis shows that, for regular cell phones, people mainly searched on specific models, typically when new models were first released, rather than on functional attributes.

Second, they stick with their current carrier. I suspect that has to do mainly with the influence of friends-and-family plans for personal devices and with the fact that companies typically impose a carrier on employees for business devices.

If your employees demand iPhones and your corporate carrier is Verizon or Sprint, you'll end up with a lot of personal smartphones in use by your employees. But if your users prefer BlackBerrys, that'll be less of an issue, given that most BlackBerry models (the Bold is a key exception) are available from most carriers. If you're a developer, the smartphones offered by the major carriers -- AT&T and Verizon -- are likely to be most used. That means iPhone and BlackBerry mainly, with an increasing number of Android and Windows Phone 7 devices possible later in the year.

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This article, "Inside the heads of smartphone shoppers," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Gruman et al.'s Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile computing at InfoWorld.com.

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