Communications report 2011–12 series Report 3—Smartphones and tablets

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Communications report 2011–12 series

Report 3Smartphones and tablets

Take-up and use in Australia

Summary report



This summary report presents the key findings from Report 3—Smartphones and tablets: Take-up and use in Australia. It provides an overview of the smartphone and tablet market in Australia from two key perspectives:

  • the supply of these services, their delivery models and the products available to consumers in 2012

  • the take-up of these services in 2012, including current levels of service use, and related drivers and barriers to take-up, including a willingness to pay for these services.

The full report is available on the ACMA website.

Take-up of smartphones and tablets

As the Australian mobile phone market appears to be reaching saturation level, the major changes are now being driven by the rapid take-up of smartphones and tablets. Service providers have been facilitating this, in part to diversify revenue streams beyond the traditional mobile phone market. ACMA research shows that an estimated 92 per cent of Australians over the age of 18 used a mobile phone at May 2012.

Furthermore, the communications market continues to rapidly transition from a fixed to a mobile-dominated landscape—48 per cent of Australians now identify the mobile phone as their most-used communications device.1 This transition is true for both data and voice services. Notably, in 2011–12:

  • the number of mobile internet subscribers increased by 22 per cent to reach 22.1 million at June 20122

  • the take-up of smartphones increased from 25 per cent of the adult population at June 2011 to 49 per cent at May 2012, which equates to an estimated 8.7 million smartphone users3

  • 9.2 million Australians went online via their mobile phone in the six months to May 2012, with 4.4 million accessing the internet using a tablet.4

Figure Mobile phone, smartphone and tablet usage

Note: Mobile phone and tablet internet use relates to use in the six months to May 2012.

Base: Persons with a fixed-line telephone and/or a mobile telephone. Source: ACMA-commissioned research, May 2012.

Activities undertaken via mobile phones

As might be expected, smartphone users utilise their device for a range of activities more frequently than non-smartphone users, engaging more in both voice and data activities. This is particularly the case for online activities, with smartphone users nine times more likely to have gone online via their mobile phone handsets during June 2012 than non-smartphone mobile phone users. This demonstrates the much enhanced online accessibility of smartphones.

Figure Activities undertaken online via mobile phones by handset type

Note: Relates to consumers in households with a fixed-line telephone service. Relates to online activities undertaken in the six months to May 2012.

Source: ACMA-commissioned consumer survey, May 2012.

Smartphone and tablet apps

In Australia, increasing numbers of smartphone and tablet users are downloading mobile apps, a reflection of their critical role in making it easier for consumers to access services online via mobile devices—and facilitating the growth of the online economy. During June 2012, 4.45 million smartphone users aged 18 years and over downloaded a mobile app, compared with 2.41 million during June 2011—an 85 per cent increase (see Figure 3).5

Figure Number of smartphone users downloading mobile apps, Australia

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source.

Smartphone sales by operating system

In Australia, Android phones have a 58 per cent market share while Apple’s iOS has 36 per cent—comparable to the situation in the EU. In the US, Apple achieved its highest market share at 53 per cent of smartphone sales in November 2012, compared to 42 per cent for Android devices.6

Figure Market shares of smartphone platforms in selected countries and geographic areas

Note: EU includes France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain. Source: Kantar World Panel ComTech, 25 November 2012 data.

Infrastructure developments—and 4G

Mobile network upgrades to support 4G services and the expansion of WiFi networks have helped the development of the smartphone/tablet market in Australia. Wireless service speeds continue to increase, with 4G networks capable of delivering speeds that are 25 times faster than those initially offered by 3G services.7
Pioneered in Australia by Telstra, 4G services are now being offered by other providers, including Optus and iiNet, which sells services over the Optus network.8,9 VHA has announced plans to roll out a 4G network in 2013.10
While 4G coverage in Australia is currently restricted to metropolitan areas and a few regional centres, Telsyte has forecast that there will be almost seven million 4G connections by 2016, which would account for 19 per cent of the market.11

Challenges and opportunities for the market

Telstra reported a 21.6 per cent increase in the number of SMSs sent in 2011–12.12 However, increased use of these services has not corresponded to higher revenues. In 2011–12, both Optus and Telstra reported reductions in average revenue per user (ARPU), which in turn affects profitability. Optus reported that its mobile ARPU declined by $2 to $45 in 2011–12.13 Telstra’s mobile ARPU dropped by $2.44 in the year to June 2012 and fell by $4.28 in the six months to June 2012.14
Over-the-top (OTT) phone call and messaging services such as voice over internet protocol (VoIP) utilise a smartphone’s or tablet’s data connection rather than the traditional voice network. These services pose a further threat to traditional revenue streams. In Australia, there were an estimated 616,000 mobile phone VoIP users at June 2012, an increase of 133 per cent since June 2011.15
Declining traditional revenue streams (per voice and SMS) have provided a strong incentive for providers to expand into data and content services.16 Providers have developed several strategies to encourage demand in this area, including provision of broadband-speed internet access via mobile devices, and access to popular content.17 Non-messaging data services made up an estimated 28 per cent of mobile revenues in 2010–1118, with these services expected to drive revenue for the five years until 2016–17.19


 AMCA-commissioned survey, May 2012.

2 ABS, 8153-Internet Activity, Australia, June 2012

3 AMCA-commissioned survey, May 2012 and Roy Morgan Single Source, June 2012.

4 ibid.

5 Roy Morgan Single Source.

6 ibid.

7 Telstra, Australia’s first 4G smartphone hits stores today, 24 January 2012.

8 Optus media release, ‘Optus launches 4G network across Newcastle and Hunter region’, 26 April 2012.

9 iiNet announced its intention to offer 4G broadband services over the Optus network in September 2012. Hopewell, L., ‘iiNet is bringing out 4G services of its own’, Gizmodo, 17 September 2012.

10 VHA press release, 26 June 2012.

11 Telsyte, ‘4G mobile broadband to be used by 7 million mobile devices in Australia by 2016’, 24 April 2012.

12 Telstra Annual Report 2012.

13 David Edwards, ‘Optus posts modest FY results’, Communications Day, 11 May 2012.

14 Telstra Annual Report 2012.

15 Roy Morgan Single Source.

16 Richard Jeremiah from IBIS attributes the decreasing ARPU to increase in take-up of capped call plans. See IBIS, Mobile Telecommunications Carriers in Australia, August 2011.

17 For more information refer to ACMA, Communications report 2009–10 series, Report 4—Changing business models in the Australian communication and media sectors: Challenges and response strategies, January 2011.

18 Voice services made up 36 per cent.

19 R. Jeremiah, Mobile Telecommunications Carriers in Australia, IBIS, August 2011.

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