As if you couldn’t already tell by the sheer number of white earbuds you see slouching youths with backpacks and baby mustaches wearing, iPods are popular with the teen crowd. Very popular, according to a recent survey of teen consumer spending by investment banking firm Piper Jaffray. The survey, the results of which were reported by AppleInsider, found that Apple (s aapl) was actually nearing the saturation point with its survey respondent sample, which, if true, is both good and bad news for Cupertino.
Of the students surveyed, 92 percent reported that they did in fact own a portable media player, and of those, 86 percent own some variety of iPod. Contrast that with Zune owners, who represent a whopping 4 percent of those who took part in the survey. Or at least, 4 percent admitted to owning Zunes. I’m willing to bet some of that 86 percent have had Zunes foisted upon them by misguided parents, so they just say they have an iPod to avoid the social stigma.
This is good news because it means that the iPod is by far the most popular brand among teens, which is a crucial demographic for electronics manufacturers. It’s bad news because it means Apple may be close to reaching the saturation point with the market, which could negatively affect sales. The key to taking advantage of their overwhelming lead among teens is to translate iPod sales now into iPhone sales later, and the iPod touch is the cornerstone of their ability to do so. Introducing enticing new features like a camera and Bluetooth might be enough incentive to convince teens it’s time for an upgrade.
iTunes users also rose, with 97 percent of teens surveyed using Apple’s digital music download service and 82 percent of those who buy music online through legit channels. Of course, that number is pre-variable pricing structure, so it’ll be interesting to see if the recent price hikes change things in the next installment of the bi-annual survey.
The worst news in the survey came in the area of iPhones, where teen owners remained at 8 percent, the same as last time the survey was conducted. Intent to buy actually dropped from 22 to only 16 percent, with Piper Jaffray speculating that the lack of interest has to do primarily with AT&T’s pricing for cellular plans. It probably will remain a market where Apple has trouble until they can offer a device not tied to a data plan or strong-arm AT&T into introducing far more reasonable data subscription prices. It’s hard to imagine they won’t try to capitalize on the growth potential represented by their iPhone numbers among teens, especially with their selling opportunities with iPods dwindling, at least for the short term.