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Smartphones Are Increasingly UK Kids' Mobile Phone of Choice

Limited-function mobile phones may face a tough sell

May 22, 2013 | Demographics | Mobile

Just 16.8% of UK kids ages 0 to 11 used a mobile phone in 2012, according to eMarketer estimates, and that number will only increase to 17.7% by 2017. But what is striking is during that timeframe, the mobile device of choice among this demographic is increasingly set to become a smartphone. Just 36.6% of UK mobile phone users in this age bracket used a smartphone in 2012, but this number will effectively double by 2017, to 72.4%.

UK Smartphone User Penetration, by Age, 2011-2017 (% of mobile phone users in each group)

So with this increasing proclivity for smarter devices, one might question the logic of some device manufacturers introducing limited-function mobile phones specifically targeted at kids.

The 1stFone, from UK mobile phone company OwnFone, aimed at kids ages 4 to 9, has no screen, no internet connectivity and no texting ability. The purported aim of the phone is specifically to give parents a nonsmartphone option for their youngest mobile phone users. Yet as a growing number of kids use their mobile phone—increasingly a smartphone—for internet access, the company is potentially facing a demographic who knows the ins and outs of mobile internet access perfectly well.

According to the Office of Communications (Ofcom), 22% of children ages 5 to 15 used a mobile phone to access the internet in 2012, up from just 10% in 2010.

Devices Used by UK Children/Teens to Access the Internet According to Their Parents, 2010-2012 (% of respondents)

With kids in the UK increasingly taking up and utilizing “smart” mobile devices, the gap in the market may be for a child-specific smartphone as opposed to a limited-function mobile phone.

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