Survey Reveals Changing Patterns of Smartphone Use in Korea

The Korea Communication Commission (KCC) has released one of its periodical insights into the habits of Korea’s smartphone users, and Bloter is all over it. Among its findings: females now outnumber males among new smartphone users, more than three quarters of users have taken advantage of instant messenger services, and almost 80 percent of users have downloaded an app in the past month.

The survey took place between May 29 and June 7 of this year, and covered 4,000 smartphone users aged between 12 and 59. Dealing with four areas — smartphone use, use of apps, payment deals and use of instant messenger services — the survey was the third in a series beginning in July last year, allowing researchers to track how smartphone trends have been changing over the last 12 months. The second survey took place in January of this year.



This first graph shows that 47.4 percent of current smartphone users bought their handset in the last six months. Just 8.7 percent said they’d owned one for a year or more.




These three charts show the changing male to female ratios for new owners of smartphones, defined as people who’d bought their handset in the last six months. Clearly, women are becoming an ever-more important demographic in the smartphone market.


When asked what the most important factor was when deciding which smartphone to buy, 60.7 percent of the respondents said “design and size,” 50.9 percent said “screen size and picture quality,” 45.1 percent replied “service system,” and 43.8 percent said “price of the handset.”

Regarding what drove them to buy a smartphone in the first place, 64.3 percent said, “Because I want to install and use different types of software,” 52.1 percent said,” Because I want to use the internet at any time,” and 45.6 percent cited curiosity about using new services or technology. At 29.5 percent was, “Because people around me are using one,” whereas just 15.2 percent cited academic study or work as their main reason for buying a smartphone.

Asked what they use their smartphone for most, the highest number, 88 percent, said it was to use the search function or just regular web surfing. In the previous survey, Bloter says, the most common response was “managing my calendar and itinerary,” showing that smartphones have become a pivotal platform for random looks around the internet.

Some 91.2 percent of respondents said they use the internet on their smartphones, of whom 87.3 percent said they access it more than once a day. This marks a rise of around 16 percent over the first two surveys, with the average amount of time spent online on smartphones — at 75.7 minutes — ¬†also representing an increase of around 18 minutes over the survey carried out in January of this year.

As for other key uses of their smartphones, respondents said for the alarm and clock (80.5 percent), for chatting and messenger (79.6 percent), managing calendar and itinerary (78.2 percent), games (70.4 percent) and maps (70.4 percent).

As the above graphic shows, app downloads have also risen sharply among smartphone users. Over the last 12 months, the proportion of smartphone users who downloaded an app in the last month has risen from 66 percent to 76.6 percent. In addition, some 38 percent of those spent an average of 5,000 won per month on apps.

Unsurprisingly (unless it seems on the low side), 76.9 percent of respondents said they had used a mobile instant messenger service. Of those, 41 percent said they had sent fewer text messages as a result. In addition, seven in 10 smartphone owners said they had used a VoiP service, of whom 13.9 percent said it had led to them making fewer calls.

Some 87.1 percent of respondents said they has used social networking sites on their smarpthones, with the average rate of daily use running to an impressive 1.9 hours. Of the social media fans, most (72.7 percent) said they used “communities” (couldn’t quite work out what this means — cafes and/or Facebook, perhaps?), 66.4 percent used microblogs (Twitter et al), and 59.4 percent said they used “mini hompis” on the still hugely popular Cyworld service.

Regarding payment plans, 93.3 percent said they were on a flat-rate, limited data plan, up 18 percent from May 2010. Also, whereas the most common (40.4 percent) payment plan cost 35,000 won in the first survey and 45,000 in the second survey (34.4 percent), the majority of respondents this time (44.4 percent) said they were forking out 55,000 won for their payment plans.

UPDATE: A very informative comment from Simon Kim over on Google+, who says this about the “communities” Koreans are using on their smartphones:

It means like ‘Cafe’ in Naver or Daum, ‘Club’ in Nate. (Not Facebook, honestly) – I guess ‘Communities’ means like something based on ‘membership’ system. (Join-or-Quit) …¬†Korean’s online community culture is very unique than any other nations. I’ve never seen like cafe or club on websites based on US or Europe. Before smartphones came up in public, online shopping and these kinds of ‘online group network’ have much developed (from housewives to mountain climbing club). I’m pretty sure this patterns were smoothly injected Korean’s smartphone using patterns as well. Facebook is definitely ascending also. (Even though typical platforms like Cyworld is pretty much overwhelming in this section.)

I knew that online “cafes” were still very popular in Korea, but I hadn’t realised they are the dominant form of social networking on smartphones, according to Simon. Worth a post of its own, if someone fancies doing the research :)

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