Location-based services are still traveling a long road toward mainstream adoption but the growth of smartphones and acceptance by women appears be accelerating the rise of check-in services. According to new figures out from comScore (s scor) 16.7 million U.S. mobile subscribers used a check-in service from their mobile phone in March, which represents 7.1 percent of the entire mobile audience. Though still small, it’s a good step up from a Pew Study, which reported in November that 5 percent of all wireless subscribers used a location-based service.
ComScore said that 12.7 million check-in users, or about three-quarters of all location-based service users, checked-in from a smartphone despite the fact that smartphones make up 36 percent of all phones in the U.S. That’s not totally surprising considering most check-ins happen from smartphone applications like Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook’s mobile app. But it shows location-based services are poised to grow more significantly as the population turns to increasingly to smartphones and tap into their growing library of apps. According to NPD, recent smartphone sales in the U.S. have finally eclipsed feature phones for the first time.
Check-ins aren’t simply tied to smartphone sales, however. It’s an action more prevalent among younger users in general, with 18-24 year olds representing 26 percent of check-ins and 25-34 year olds accounting for 32.5 percent. ComScore found check-ins were done by more early adopters who were more likely to follow tech news. But as the market for smartphones grows, more people are getting used to the applications on the devices and location-based services in particular. ComScore found Android (s goog) (36.6 percent) and iPhone (s aapl) (33.7 percent) users were the most likely to check-in and over-indexed on check-ins compared to their smartphone marketshare. That suggests Android, in particular, could help spread the use of location-based services as it widens its lead on other smartphone platforms.
Location-based services still face hurdles in adoption. A Nielsen survey announced last month found 59 percent of women and 52 percent of men were concerned about privacy when it comes to location-based services. Those concerns will take time to overcome though many location-based services are getting people to share more by offering deals or local recommendations. But one encouraging sign for location-based services is that the distribution of check-ins by gender is almost equal, with 50.8 percent of check-ins happening by women. That’s a big turnaround from the Pew study which found that men were twice as likely to use location-based services. And it may suggest that despite privacy concerns about location-based services women are still finding reasons to check-in.
We are still far from location-based services entering the mainstream, but the latest numbers suggest awareness and usage is growing. And as smartphones proliferate and users start tapping the functions of the devices, it means location services could soon extend beyond the early adopter crowd to more users, especially if services provide enough incentive and privacy protection to make it worth their while.
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