On February 1st, The Neilson Company released statistical data that displayed the smartphone preferences of consumers based on race. About a third of Americans use a smarthphone. The study found that in the United States, minority groups comprise the largest proportion of smartphone users. Neilson used four racial groupings: White, Hispanic, African American and Asian/Pacific Islander. Surprisingly, White consumers reported the lowest percentage of smartphone ownership at 27%. Asian/Pacific Islanders and Hispanics tie with 45% of each group reporting to own a smartphone. African Americans fall below with 33% reporting ownership of a smartphone. These statistics are even higher when accounting for recent phone purchases. The minority groups outrank Whites in this category as well by up to eighteen percentage points.
The study goes even further. They have compiled data that breaks down which type of smartphone operating system is preferred for each racial group. The report suggests that 36% of Asian/Pacific Islanders who have a smartphone chose the Apple iPhone OS. African Americans prefer the RIM Blackberry OS as 31% of this group owns one. Minority groups seemingly have a bigger proportional market share for certain smartphone operating systems. Android OS smartphones rank very high among Whites and minorities and account for at least 20% of smartphone ownership in each group.
The method by which this data was compiled is a mystery. The report does not really explain the information gathering process at all. Were people randomly interviewed by phone or online? Was a questionnaire given as phone purchases were made and then reviewed by Neilson? Statistical evidenced can be skewed based on what questions are asked, to whom, where, when and with what incentive if any. It is unreasonable for Neilson to present this information without offering intelligent readers some background and insight into their methods.
At first glance, this information sounds interesting. When marketers of smartphones learn about the consumer demographic groupings that are particularly interested in their product, this can help them to focus their advertising techniques in a customized way. This data however can create a larger problem. As a consumer, I don’t want to be boxed in and labeled in one category or another. My choices should not be indicative of the choices of the majority of people that share my race. I should not walk into a store to purchase an iPhone and have the sales associate direct me to phones that I will probably like because of my race.
I don’t want to be targeted for any product or smartphone based on the color or lack of color of my skin. Yes, race is an important and obvious societal factor for many situations and circumstances, but in regards to a smartphone, I think not! What’s next? Will there be racial data for who likes certain types of purses, cameras or refrigerators? Why did Neilson conduct this research to begin with? Were they enticed to do so by the very companies who stand to gain from the results? Maybe, maybe not.