HOME > Press/News > Back Number 2017 > CIAJ Releases Report on the Study of Mobile Device Use – MVNO awareness spreads, leading to diversity of mobile market –

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CIAJ Releases Report on the Study of Mobile Device Use – MVNO awareness spreads, leading to diversity of mobile market –


CIAJ conducted its annual study of mobile device use and announces the release of this year’s findings as follows.

MVNO awareness and market penetration have grown over the past year, with the ratio of people who have actually used MVNOs increasing. According to a study of monthly payments, cheaper plans are gaining popularity among subscribers, which can be assumed to be a direct impact of MVNOs. “Price” was also ranked among the top responses when asked about what factors would be important on their next purchase. All of this leads to the conclusion that demand for low prices is mounting among users.

(1) Summary

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 twenty, 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.

(2) Handset Trends

<Type of terminal owned>

  • The 1,200 people surveyed owned a total of 1,726 terminals and their breakdown is listed in the following table.
  • 1,088 respondents (90.7%) said their main-use terminal (primary choice terminal) was a smartphone, while 110 respondents (9.2%) said it was a feature phone.

    <Type of terminal owned by respondents of study>

    Type of terminal ownedNo. of devicesMain-use device
    (Primary choice)
    Smartphone1,090 (90.8%)1,088 (90.7%)
    Featurephone123 (10.3%)110 (9.2%)
    Tablet (with telecom subscription)232 (19.3%)1 (0.1%)
    Tablet (with only Wi-Fi connectivity)80 (6.7%)1 (0.1%)
    Mobile Wi-Fi router197 (16.4%)0
    PHS4 (0.3%)0
    Total (including other responses)1,7261,200 (100.0%)

<Accelerated growth in smartphone users continues>

  • The 2017 survey showed continuous growth in smartphone users with a 7.0% increase to 90.8%.
  • Smartphone use among respondents in their teens, twenties and thirties had nearly reached 100% in last year’s study, but the 2017 study reveals that penetration has spread in older generations, with respondents in their fifties exceeding 80% and exceeding 60% among those in their sixties.

    <Change in Percentage of Smartphone Users Over the Years>

<Tablets are dominant as second device, but flat growth>

  • Of the 1,088 smartphone users, 435 (41.5%) were using multiple devices, an increase of 5.6 points (last year’s multi-device users were 351 (35.9%)) over the previous year.
  • The rate of respondents who use tablets (with telecom subscription) was still the most popular choice as a second device, but the total number of devices for tablets with both telecom subscription and only wi-fi connectivity decreased slightly from 304 in 2016 to 297 and so did the ratio of users.
  • On the other hand, the number of respondents using mobile wifi routers increased from 9.4% to 24.6%.

(3) Trends ion New Services

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

  • 79.6% of smartphone users (n=1,067) stated that they were aware of MVNO.
  • Of smartphone users, 16.3% had actually bought an ultra low-end smartphone, compared to 9.0% in the 2016 survey, reflecting their penetration in the market.

    <MVNO Ultra Low-End Smartphone Use>

<Satisfaction with MVNO>

  • MVNO users (n=138) gave high marks about the service, with high satisfaction concerning speed, data transmission limits, rates and other items. The number of those surveyed who were happy with the family discount rates jumped from 57.0% to 97.9%. However, satisfaction rates for post-purchase services dropped from 91.9% to 59.1%.

    <Views After Trying MVNO>

(4) Purchasing Cycles

<Slowing growth in intention to replace devices>

  • 57.9% of respondents indicated intention to purchase a replacement, showing a continuation of a downward trend. This drop was especially prevalent among smartphone users, dropping from last year’s 85.1% to 60.5%.

    <Intent to purchase replacement of current model>

<Longer purchasing cycles>

  • The average use of respondents’ previous model (the one before the handset currently in use) was 30.0 months for smartphones and 55.1 months for featurephones and 32.0 overall. The cycle for smartphones had been shortening until last year, but converted to longer duration this year, indicating a lull in the purchase of smartphones.

    <Change in Duration of Ownership>

<Next purchase likely to be a smartphone again>

  • Among smartphone users, 99.5% of those intending to purchase a replacement responded that they planned to choose a smartphone again.
  • Among featurephone users, 87.9% of those intending to purchase a replacement responded that they planned to choose a smartphone, leading to the conclusion that smartphone user rates will continue to grow.

    <Intent to purchase replacement of current smartphone (n=1,079)>

    <Intent to purchase replacement of current featurephone (n=104)>

(5) 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 “purchase price of handset,” “monthly payment cost,” “design” and “size (snugness in one’s hand),” with all items exceeding 80% and last year’s top choice, “manufacturer/brand.” The top two factors, “purchase price of handset” and “monthly payment cost,” jumped from 3rd and 4th place in 2016, reflecting user emphasis on cost.
  • Top ranking factors for featurephone users were also “purchase price of handset” and “monthly payment cost.”

<Decisive factors in purchasing smartphones/featurephones>

RankSmartphones (n=1,077)%
1Purchase price of handset87.7
2Monthly payment cost87.6
4Size (snugness in one’s hand)80.8
6Size (lightweight)72.9
8Battery life65.9
9Mobile telecom operator57.1
10Camera (video, still photos)55.0
12High-speed service51.3
13Size of LCD48.7
14Operability (reaction speed, ease of use)44.9
15CPU capacity44.2
16Beautiful display39.9
17On-board memory capacity37.0
18Music player features31.8
19Maximum capacity of external memory25.2
20Wireless charging system24.1
21Pixel count of displayfiles22.8
22Dust resistancy19.3
23Existing security features of the device15.7
24Able to continue using mobile operator services15.6
25Ability to read PC files14.9
26Durability (toughness)13.6
27Handwriting and hand drawing recognition12.5
RankFeaturephones (n=104)%
1Purchase price of handset80.8
2Monthly payment cost78.8
3Size (snugness in one’s hand)45.2
5Size (lightweight)40.4
7Battery life26.0
8Size of LCD26.0
9Mobile telecom operator20.2
12Camera (video, still photos)13.5
13Beautiful display11.5
14Dust resistancy10.6
Operability (reaction speed, ease of use)
Ability to watch tv broadcast
18On-board memory capacity9.6
19High-speed service8.7
20Same operability as previous phone7.7
21Pixel count of displayfiles6.7
22Music player features5.8
23Infrared communication features5.8

(6) 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)97.196.3
    IP phone (LINE, Skype, etc.)56.419.6
    Carrier mail8.112.7
    Internet mail86.781.9
    SNS messages91.792.1
    Normal e-mail based on text93.691.8
    Decorated messages, emoji64.851.2
    Photo-attached e-mail84.263.6
    Video-attached e-mail48.230.1
    Downloading music80.367.8
    Downloading video73.264.9
    Downloading games78.075.0
    Downloading items for games43.946.6
    Downloading digital books40.129.8
    Downloading stamps45.457.9
    Viewing and writing in LINE93.391.7
    Watching videos85.084.9
    Music features83.866.7
    Viewing and writing inTwitter, Facebook and other SNS84.780.0
    Watching news and reading newspapers48.356.1
    Watching tv10.138.6
    Internet payments77.643.3
    Using camera for still photos91.687.6
    Using camera for video53.958.7
    Maps, navigation, GPS logger, location information86.973.9
    Cloud memo management44.828.8
    Viewing PC files (Office, PDF, etc.)38.025.1
    Using coupons70.762.5
    Text entry using voice recognition48.825.1
    QR code66.062.1
    Translation apps using voice recognition48.022.6
    Bluetooth (wireless headsets, keyboards, etc.)47.613.2
    International roaming, use abroad27.017.4

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 fax: 81-3-5403-9360

For more general inquiries, contact

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