HOME > Press/News > Back Number 2015 > CIAJ Releases Report on the Study of Mobile Phone Use – Intention to change handsets highest ever Diverse choices may stimulate market

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CIAJ Releases Report on the Study of Mobile Phone Use – Intention to change handsets highest ever Diverse choices may stimulate market


CIAJ conducted its annual study of mobile phone use and announces the release of this year’s findings as follows.
This year’s numbers reflecting intention to purchase new handsets was the highest in the 13-year history of this study, raising expectations that the diversification of services and handsets may stimulate the domestic handset market. The study also showed that almost 80% of those surveyed used mainly smartphones. In addition, the study revealed details on MVNO, SIM-free/SIM-unlocked, video use and wearables.


This study has been conducted as a fixed-point observation every April since 1998 to capture on-going changes in the domestic mobile communications market and includes data from the busiest sales season of the year in March.
CIAJ mailed questionnaires to 1,200 mobile phone users (100 male & 100 female users in each of the following age groups: under 20, twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties) residing in the larger Tokyo and Osaka metropolitan areas from the end of March through early April of this year.
Unique findings from this year’s study are as follows.

(1) Handset Trends

<Type of terminal owned>

The 1,200 people surveyed owned a total of 1,523 terminals and their breakdown is listed in the following table. 919 respondents (76.6%) said their main-use terminal (primary choice terminal) was a smartphone, while 278 respondents (23.2%) said it was a featurephone.

<Type of terminal owned by respondents of study>
Type of terminal ownedNo. of devicesMain-use device
(Primary choice)
Smartphone923 (76.9%)919 (76.6%)
Featurephone291 (24.3%)278 (23.2%)
Tablet (with telecom subscription)102 (8.5%)0 (0.0%)
Tablet (with only Wi-Fi connectivity)92 (7.7%)1 (0.1%)
Mobile Wi-Fi router97 (8.1%)0 (0.0%
PHS18 (1.5%)1 (0.1%)
Total1,5231,200 (100.0%)

<Accelerated growth in smartphone users>

  • The 2015 survey showed a 17.4% increase in smartphone users to 76.9%. Among those in their teens and twenties, the percentage rose to 100% or almost 100%.
  • Smartphone use has grown in all age groups, including middle-age to older age groups, with the largest increase in women in their forties (+23%) and women in their fifties (+16%).

<Change in Number of Smartphone Users>

<Second device shifting to tablets>

  • Of the 912 smartphone users, 197 respondents (21.4%) stated that they used multiple devices. This was approximately a 10% drop from the previous year.
  • In the 2014 survey, 36.7% said their second device was a tablet (with telecom subscription) and 22.6% was a tablet (with only Wi-Fi connectivity), whereas this year’s survey showed that 49.2% was a tablet (with telecom subscription) and 32.5% was a tablet (with only Wi-Fi connectivity), signifying a growing shift to tablets
  • Meanwhile, PHS users shrank significantly from 16.9% to 6.1%.

(2) New Service Trends

<MNVO ultra low-end smartphone users still a minority despite awareness>

  • 63.4% of smartphone users and 41.8% of featurephone users stated that they were aware of MVNO.
  • Of smartphone users, only 2.8% had actually bought an ultra low-end smartphone, and 15.7% were thinking about purchasing one.

<MNVO Ultra Low-End Smartphone Use>

<Desire to use SIM-free/SIM lock disabled devices still slightly above 10%>

  • 63.1% of smartphone users and 23.5% of featurephone users stated that they were aware of SIM-free/SIM lock disabled devices.
  • Only 13.6% of smartphone users and 12.6% of featurephone users stated that they would like to use SIM-free/SIM lock disabled devices, but 70 to 80% answered that they were not sure, indicating that mobile handset users were still not able to decide.

<Desire to Use SIM-Free/SIM Lock Disabled Devices>

(3) Purchasing Cycles

<Highest intention to change current handset since 2003>

  • 85.5% of respondents indicated intention to purchase a replacement (88.1% of smartphone users, 74.5% of featurephone users). These numbers are the highest since 2003.
  • The desire to purchase a replacement was especially strong among featurephone users, which basically doubled from 37.2% last year. The switch to smartphones is accelerating and at the time of the survey, 93.2% of featurephone users had an intention to switch to a smartphone, leading to the conclusion that the ratio of smartphone users will continue to increase.

<Change in Intention to Purchase New Handsets>

<Shortest purchasing cycle in 5 years>

    The average use of respondents’ previous model (the one before the handset currently in use) was 28.0 months for smartphones (1.6 months shorter than 2014) and 46.1 months for featurephones (4.8 months shorter than 2014). This is the shortest cycle in five years.

<Change in Duration of Ownership>

(4) Decisive Factors for New Purchases

<Decisive factors in purchasing smartphones/feature phones>

  • The top ranking decisive factors in making the next purchase for smartphone users were “battery life,” “manufacturer/brand,” “monthly payment cost,” “high-speed service,” “mobile telecom operator,” “water-proof” and “purchase price of handset.” The top two were unchanged from last year, whereas “purchase price of handset” moved down from 3rd to 7th and “high-speed service” and “mobile telecom operator” moved up from 10th to 4th, 14th to 5th, respectively.
  • Top ranking factors for featurephone users were “monthly payment cost,” “purchase price of handset,” “size (snugness in one’s hand),” “design,” “water-proof” and “mobile telecom operator.”
<Decisive factors in purchasing smartphones/featurephones>
RankingSmartphones (n=910)%
1Battery life70.1
3Monthly payment cost65.2
4High-speed service65.1
5Mobile telecom operator64.6
7Purchase price of handset61.5
8Size of LCD56.2
9Size (snugness in one’s hand)52.0
10Touch panel operability49.7
11Latest version of OS48.9
12Ability to upgrade OS after purchase42.1
13Beautiful display41.5
15Camera function36.9
17Music player feature31.6
18Video streaming feature29.9
19Pixel count of display27.9
20On-board memory27.8
21Dust-resistant feature20.4
22Ability to read PC files19.1
23Infrared communication feature14.4
24Handwriting recognition14.2
25Bluetooth feature13.7
26Stress-free operation13.3
28Ability to receive emergency earthquake warning12.1
29Voice recognition11.6
30E-book reader capacity10.5
RankingFeaturephones (n=275)%
1Monthly payment cost84.7
2Purchase price of handset84.4
3Size (snugness in one’s hand)66.5
6Panel operability40.4
7Mobile telecom operator33.8
8Battery life26.9
10High-speed service19.6
11Size of LCD19.3
12Large and easy to read text17.5
14Beautiful display12.7
Same operation as previous model

Only choices with 10% or higher response rates are listed.

(5) Use of Handset Features and Services

<Changes in use of smartphone features and services>

  • The study has looked at the use of various features and services of mobile handsets over the years. The table below indicates user ratio and year-over-year change in use, duration and frequency.
  • The use of features and services are diverse and it is the hope of this committee that manufacturers reflect these trends in future designs of their products and services.
<Change in Use of Smartphone Features and Services>
Use scenarioSmartphoneDuration and frequency of use
1.Shoot still photos with camera88.7%88.7%
2.Search on the internet92.7%90.2%
3.Shoot videos with camera78.0%73.8%
4.Read/write blogs79.0%70.0%
5.Geographic information, navigation, GPS, positioning information and services48.2%70.8%
7.Auction, internet billing and payment60.7%43.1%
8.Memo and file management in the cloud56.3%24.2%
9.View PC files (Office, PDF, etc.)53.5%25.4%
11.Text entry using voice recognition58.9%23.3%
12.Exchanging contact info36.6%
13.International roaming, Use abroad16.4%25.0%
14.QR code65.8%46.2%
15.Translation app using voice recognition58.9%23.3%
16.AR features and services59.4%27.4%
17.Handwriting features53.5%25.4%

Arrows under duration and frequency of use indicate change over the previous year.

For details, contact

Mr. Hayashi
Products & Technologies Development
tel: 81-3-5403-9358 fax: 81-3-5403-9360

For more general inquiries, contact

Corporate Communications
tel: 81-3-5403-9351 fax: 81-3-5403-9360