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CIAJ Releases Report on the Study of Mobile Device Use – MNVO awareness improves Jump in popularity of ultra low-end smatphones –


CIAJ conducted its annual study of mobile device use and announces the release of this year’s findings as follows. Until last year, the title of the study referred to “mobile phones.” However, with the increasing choices in mobile terminal devices, we have renamed the title to reflect this diversity.

The intent to upgrade mobile devices this year has somewhat slowed over the previous year, but awareness of MNVO and SIM-free devices has surged, with such factors becoming major considerations in next purchases. Furthermore, this year’s study reveals insights on awareness of recycling and using mobile devices while walking.


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 include data from the busiest sales season of the year in March.

CIAJ mailed questionnaires to 1,200 mobile phones 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 1,728 terminals and their breakdown is listed in the following table. 1,003 respondents (83.6%) said their main-use terminal (primary choice terminal) was a smartphone, while 196 respondents (16.3%) said it was a featurephone.
    Type of terminal owned by respondents of study

    Type of terminal ownedNo. of devicesMain-use device
    (Primary choice)
    Smartphone1005 (83.8%)1,003 (83.6%)
    Featurephone205 (17.1%)196 (16.3%)
    Tablet (with telecom subscription)156 (13.3%)1 (0.1%)
    Tablet (with only Wi-Fi connectivity)143 (11.9%)0
    Mobile Wi-Fi router188 (15.7%)0
    PHS28 (2.3%)0
    Total (including other responses)1,7281,200 (100.0%)

<Accelerated growth in smartphone users continues>

  • The 2016 survey showed continuous growth in smartphone users with a 6.9% increase to 83.8%. Smartphone use among respondents in their teens, twenties and thirties was nearly or had reached 100%.
  • Smartphone use has grown in all age groups, including middle-age to older age groups, with the largest increase in men in their fifties (+16%) and men in their sixties (+14%).

Change in Percentage of Smartphone Users Over the Years

<Second device shifting to tablets>

  • Of the 977 smartphone users, 351 (35.9%) were using multiple devices, an increase of 14.5 points (last year’s multi-device users were 197) over the previous year and indicating growth in multi-device users.
  • The breakdown of change over the previous year in secondary device among multiple device users was 5.6% to 1.4% for featurephones, 4.1% to 1.9% for smartphones and 6.1% to 3.0% for PHS.
  • On the other hand, the rate of respondents who use tablets (both with telecom subscription and only wi-fi connectivity) was mostly unchanged over the previous year, but the number of devices owned by those surveyed nearly doubled from 161 to 304 devices.

(2) Trends ion New Services

<MNVO ultra low-end smartphone users still a minority but expected to grow>

  • 82.0% of smartphone users (n=965) and 47.6% of featurephone users (n=189) stated that they were aware of MVNO.
  • Of smartphone users, only 9.0% had actually bought an ultra low-end smartphone, and 37.8% were thinking about purchasing one, but the numbers are expected to grow.
    MNVO Ultra Low-End Smartphone Use

<Satisfaction with MNVO>

  • The number of MNVO users is still small (n=87), but their satisfaction rates in speed, data transmission limits, rates and follow-up service were all quite favorable at above 90%.
    Views After Trying MNVO

<Jump in awareness and desire to use SIM-free/SIM lock disabled devices>

  • 81.8% (63.1% in previous year) of smartphone users (n=964) and 40.1% (23.5% in previous year) of featurephone users (n=187) stated that they were aware of SIM-free/SIM lock disabled devices. Bothe were significant increases over the previous year.
  • 49.6% of smartphone users and 26.8% of featurephone users stated that they would like to use SIM-free/SIM lock disabled devices, which were again much higher than the previous year. In 2015, 70% to 80% of respondents were not sure, but this year, the figure was down to 30%, indicating that interest in SIM-free/SIM lock disabled devices had become pervasive.
    Awareness of SIM-Free/SIM Lock Disabled Devices

    Desire to Use SIM-Free/SIM Lock Disabled Devices

(3) Purchasing Cycles

<Slowing growth in intention to replace devices>

  • 75.0% of respondents indicated intention to purchase a replacement (85.1% of smartphone users, 22.4% of featurephone users).
  • The desire to purchase a replacement has dramatically dropped to a third of last year’s figure among featurephone users, going from 74.5% to 22.4%, indicating that featurephone replacements had made significant progress.
  • At the time of the survey, 66.7% 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.
    Intent to purchase replacement of current model

<Shorter purchasing cycle>

  • The average use of respondents’ previous model (the one before the handset currently in use) was 26.8 months for smartphones and 46.7 months for featurephones. Compared to the previous year, the cycle for featurephones was nearly the same, and 1.2 months shorter for smartphones. These figures are the shortest cycle in six 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 “manufacturer/brand,” “size (snugness in one’s hand),” “purchase price of handset,” “monthly payment cost,” “design” and “long battery life.” The top two factors were different from the previous year. “Design” moved up from 14th to 5th and “purchase price of handset” moved up from 7th to 3rd, while “high-speed service” and “mobile telecom operator” dropped from 4th and 9th to 5th and 16th respectively.
  • Top ranking factors for featurephone users were “monthly payment cost,” “purchase price of handset” and “size (snugness in one’s hand) ,” meaning there was relatively little change over the previous year.

Decisive factors in purchasing smartphones/featurephones

RankSmartphones (n=998)%
2Size (snugness in one’s hand)71.7
3Purchase price of handset53.3
4Monthly payment cost52.2
6Longer battery life42.7
7Camera features39.0
9High-speed service38.0
10Size of LCD36.9
11On-board memory capacity32.5
12Music player features27.6
13Beautiful display27.0
14Video features24.1
15Wireless charging system22.4
16Mobile telecom operator21.8
17Touch panel operability20.7
18Maximum capacity of external memory20.1
19Pixel count of display18.7
20Existing security features of the device18.5
21Ability to read PC files17.2
22Handwriting and hand drawing recognition15.9
23Bluetooth feature15.5
Voice recognition
25Ability to use as action camera14.2
26Size (slimness)14.1
Ability to receive emergency earthquake warning
29E-book reader capacity12.7
31Infrared communication feature Color12.1
RankFeaturephones (n=192)%
1Monthly payment cost74.5
2Purchase price of handset74.0
3Size (snugness in one’s hand)72.9
6Panel operability24.0
8Size (slimness)8.9
9Battery life8.3
10Camera features6.3
Dust resistancy
Size of LCD
13Mobile telecom operator5.2
14On-board memory capacity4.2
Ability to receive same telecom operator service as before

(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 scenarioRate of use (%)Duration and
    frequency of use
    Voice communication (circuit switched)95.597.1
    IP phone (LINE, Skype, etc.)83.056.4
    Carrier mail33.08.1
    Internet mail75.686.7
    SNS messages90.491.7
    Normal e-mail based on text90.193.6
    Decorated messages, emoji78.164.8
    Photo-attached e-mail78.584.2
    Video-attached e-mail64.548.2
    Downloading music66.680.3
    Downloading video62.173.2
    Downloading games26.378.0
    Downloading items for games25.743.9
    Downloading digital books44.640.1
    Downloading stamps26.645.4
    Viewing and writing in LINE89.993.3
    Viewing and writing in Twitter72.484.7
    Viewing and writing in Facebook69.6
    Viewing and writing in other SNS45.0
    Music features73.683.8
    Listening to internet radio25.450.3
    Watching news and reading newspapers51.948.3
    Watching videos83.785.0
    Watching tv16.110.0

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

For details, contact

Products & Technologies Development
tel: 81-3-5403-9358 URL: http://ciaj.or.jp

For more general inquiries, contact

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