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Smartphones Dominate Germany's Mobile Landscape

Nearly 80% of consumers have an advanced handset

November 4, 2016

Germany’s mobile market is reaching a plateau—in one respect at least—according to Deloitte’s “Global Mobile Consumer Survey 2016.” When the firm polled 2,000 adults in the country during July, they found minor shifts in device usage and penetration between 2015 and 2016, such as a rise in smartphones at the expense of feature phones. Yet the total number of mobile devices in use overall had hardly grown.

Devices Owned by Internet Users in Germany, July 2016 (% of respondents)

Smartphones were the most popular digital device, owned by 79% of respondents. Also, the smartphone category seems to benefit most from consumers’ desire to trade up to newer, better gadgets. By contrast, user penetration for large tablets had fallen, from 30% to 28%, and a small rise in phablet ownership didn’t compensate for that decline. According to Deloitte’s analysis, tablets have a distinct role to play, but the user base isn’t really growing in Germany, and purchase intent for those devices is also rather low.

Looking at these trends, Deloitte concluded that in Germany, “new growth was only possible through new device categories”—in fact, the report was subtitled “Waiting for the Next Big Thing.” But judging by the survey results, many innovations hyped as major game-changers aren’t living up to those early predictions.

For one thing, smart watches haven’t taken off. While 3% of respondents in Germany had a smart watch in 2015, that rose by just 1 percentage point in 2016, to 4%. Similarly, 8% of those polled in 2015 said they intended to buy a smart watch, but in 2016, only 7% planned to do so.

Internet of Things Devices that Internet Users in Germany Would Consider Purchasing, July 2016 (% of respondents)

Enthusiastic claims made for the internet of things (IoT) also seem to be falling on deaf ears. Penetration of home surveillance systems, connected cars, smart thermostats, connected home appliances and the like in Germany was no more than 3%—unchanged since 2015.

Instead, what’s growing is the range and extent of consumer behaviors on smartphones. For the first time, instant messaging was the most widely used means of digital communications in 2016, surpassing SMS texts, email and social networks. Deloitte also found individuals were more likely to use their smartphone to take photos than to make voice calls. In 2015, one in 10 used their smartphone camera at least once a day—in 2016, 30% did.

While greater smartphone usage is good news for advertisers targeting mobile consumers, ad blocking does cast a shadow. Deloitte found that people in the highly targeted 18-to-34 age bracket were most eager to block ads. Over half of adults 18 to 24 said they had already installed a mobile ad blocker, or planned to do so in the next 12 months; among those ages 25 to 34, 36% said they had, or would soon have, an ad blocker on their mobile device. A quarter (24%) of respondents 55 and older agreed.

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