Surprise! Over-55 crowd adopting smartphones fastest

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Although it’s expected that half the total U.S. population will own a smartphone by the end of 2011, some age groups have already surpassed that mark. Nielsen’s third-quarter metrics show that 62 percent of the 25-to-34-year-old U.S. population has a smartphone.

Slightly younger and older age groups are also beyond the 50-percent mark. But the fastest-growing age group adopting smartphones in the past quarter is a surprise: It’s the 55-to-64-year-olds getting their smartphone on.

Looking at the visual data, this point may not be obvious: The 55-to-64-year-old group is the second-lowest line on the smartphone penetration graph. But it’s also the group that showed the biggest jump in the third quarter of 2011: five percent over the prior quarter. Looking back a few quarters ago, the 45–54 age group experienced the same jump. That suggests, at least in the short term, that more people in the older generations are making the transition from feature phones.

That means there’s still potential opportunity for apps that target age-specific needs, which could help some mobile application developers stand out in a sea of apps. Think of apps that focus on health care or transportation needs that older folks may have, for example. As the smartphone-empowered population ages, these areas are primed for interest.

Clearly, the younger population could accurately be called “generation app,” as Nielsen dubs them; smartphone owners are downloading dozens of software titles on their handsets. Even though app stores are filled with hundreds of thousands of titles, developers can still find new growth in the right markets if they know where to look.

If I were a developer, I’d be looking beyond the confines of the young and middle-aged smartphone owners right now, before that segment moves past the 50-percent adoption point.

Image courtesy of Flickr user quinnanya

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