China emerging as “Mobile Only”


SmartphoneWith smartphone penetration still in the early stages in China, a new study indicates that the People’s Republic could become a “one screen nation,” outpacing the U.S. in consumers who use smartphones as their sole or primary media device, according to a first-of-its-kind cross-cultural report, developed jointly by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Interactive Internet Advertising Committee of China (IIACC), the trade associations for digital media companies in the U.S. and China, respectively.

The unprecedented joint study, “Mobile’s Role in a Consumer’s Media Day in the United States and in China: The Smartphone as an Extension of the Self and an Extension into the World,” compares consumer smartphone usage habits in two of the world’s most important markets. The research reveals that media consumption is more impacted by smartphone ownership in China. More than a quarter of Chinese smartphone owners report less TV watching and reduced print consumption as a result of owning a mobile connected device (28% and 27% respectively). In comparison to their U.S. counterparts, Chinese smartphone owners are 86 percent more likely to report less TV usage and 42 percent more likely to report less print usage.

In contrast to China smartphone owners’ concentrated focus on the small screen, U.S. smartphone owners are much more likely to consume other media with their mobile devices in hand. For example, while watching TV, smartphone users report participating in:

–Internet communication (51% U.S. vs. 10% China)

–Reading social media (38% U.S. vs. 9% China)

–Conducting a local search (34% U.S. vs. 8% China)

The data shows similar disparities when it comes to reading print media.

The study also points to distinct attitudinal differences that can help marketers, agency professionals, and publishers to effectively tailor their strategies to reach consumers in both countries. Strikingly, the research illustrates Americans’ greater dependency on their smartphones as devices that they would “never leave home without” (69%). In comparison, merely 6% of their Chinese counterparts said the same. 34% of Americans said that their smartphone is the “first thing I reach for when I wake up,” as opposed to 7% of Chinese smartphone owners.

“China has built some of the world’s most popular and powerful digital brands, including companies like, Baidu, Sohu and RenRen,” said Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO, IAB. “This study will help global marketers understand what these Chinese companies already understand – that the mobile consumer in China is a valuable but complicated force.”

Chinese are also more apt to use their smartphones for web browsing than Americans (32% China vs. 21% U.S.). More than one fifth (23%) of Chinese respondents said that they spent 3 hours or more per day in the last week accessing the internet with their smartphones. The top reason they cited for turning to their smartphones was “entertainment.”

“Traditional media companies around the world are watching how mobile is affecting their businesses,” said Chen Yong, General Secretary, the Interactive Internet Advertising Committee of China. “These figures suggest that Chinese media companies need to be even more agile than their American counterparts, as Chinese smartphone users report that their smaller screens have a bigger impact on their media mix.”

“Culturally and economically the United States and China are very different, so it is not surprising that smartphone usage would be different as well, especially considering that Chinese consumers are at an earlier point in the adoption cycle,” said Sherrill Mane, Senior Vice President, Research, Analytics and Measurement, IAB. “Multinational brands must understand that effectiveness of mobile advertising in China is dependent upon an intricate understanding of the local patterns of adoption and develop response strategies suited to the market and consumer behaviors.”