The cell phone market is experiencing a “post-pandemic” low in global smartphone shipment numbers. With purchases reportedly falling, let’s look at how this has impacted cell phone retailer and brand market share, as well as other consumer insights from TraQline Durable IQ™.
Continue reading to explore the latest trends in consumer preferences for American cell phone brands, top purchase locations, and the key factors influencing consumer purchase decisions. For additional valuable market insights, download our free U.S. cell phone market infographic.
Source: All data in this article was pulled from the TraQline Durable IQ platform using the rolling 4Q ending Q3 2023, Cell Phone category. For the most recent insights or further dives into the data, please contact us.
Who are the top cell phone retailers by market share?
As of September 2023, the leading retailers for the cell phone industry were top cellular service providers — Verizon, T Mobile, and AT&T/Cingular continued to lead all other outlets in unit and dollar share.
- Unit share breakdown: Verizon (18%), T Mobile (15%), and AT&T/Cingular (13%)
- Dollar share breakdown: Verizon (22%), T Mobile (16%), and AT&T/Cingular (16%)
Other key insights about the cell phone market leaders include:
- Among all leading retailers, AT&T/Cingular and Apple had the highest unit share change with a significant gain of 1 point. In addition, both retailers gained significant dollar share as well — Apple with a 2-point gain and AT&T/Cingular with 1 point.
- On the other hand, Verizon saw the greatest unit share loss, with a 2 percentage points decline.
- Similarly, most of the top cell phone outlets gained dollar share from last year, with Verizon as a notable exception — experiencing a loss of 4 percentage points compared to the prior year.
Most cell phone purchasers shop only one store (83%) and most shop for only one brand (78%) before making a buying decision. Interestingly Apple continues with a loyal group of followers as 87% of those purchasing an Apple brand were more likely to have only shopped for one brand – in this case Apple
Our three leading retailers — Verizon, T Mobile, and AT&T/Cingular — also unsurprisingly lead all other major outlets for outlet draw rate — with 21%, 16%, and 15%, respectively. While Verizon led for draw rate, they decreased significantly versus the prior year. Draw rate denotes the number of consumers a given outlet brought into their stores or ecommerce site.
These outlets also lead outlet close rate; however, T Mobile claims the highest close rate at 89%, tied with AT&T/Cingular following also at 89% and then Verizon at 88%, which was down significantly from last year. Close rate represents the percent of consumers that purchased at a given retailer.
Who leads cell phone market share by brand? | Apple vs. Samsung
When it comes to cell phone brands, the market leaders are unsurprisingly Apple and Samsung. But which brand comes out on top?
In both dollar and unit share, the most popular cell phone brand as of September 2023 was Apple, with 64% dollar share and 47%-unit share.
Samsung easily secured second place, winning 25% dollar share and 29%-unit share — landing them with 20 percentage points more than the next top brand (Google, with 4% dollar and unit share).
Apple vs. Samsung: YOY Share Growth
Apple continued a steady rise over the last several years with a significant increase of 1 percentage point from this time last year in both dollar and unit share.
Meanwhile, Samsung has seen year-over-year decline, decreasing 1 point since September 2022 in both dollar and unit share.
Brand Consideration Rates
Apple and Samsung also continue to lead in brand consideration, with 52% and 39%, respectively. Brand consideration rate, like store draw rate, looks at the percent of consumers that considered the brand when making a purchase decision.
Apple’s close rate of 90% continues to lead over all other brands. Samsung had a close rate of 75%.
What is the average price paid in the U.S. cell phone market?
For 4Q ending September 2023, the industry average price paid (APP) was $503, which is only slightly higher than the average price this time a year ago ($498). However, the average amount spent at different retailers can vary.
Average Price Paid for Cell Phones by Retailer
- Apple has the highest average price of $844, which is up from $814 last year.
- The closest major retailer to Apple in terms of average price paid is AT&T/Cingular, with an APP of $656 for the 4Q ending September 2023.
- For the most part, the top cell phone outlets have a much higher average price paid than the industry average.
How are online and in-store sales trending for the U.S. cell phone market?
Most cell phones purchases are made in a retail store.
As of September 2023, in-store remains the most common sales channel, claiming 62% of purchases. Correspondingly, online purchases account for 33% of total purchases.
Other online vs. in-store cell phone sales trends include:
- In-store purchases continue to increase, up 1 percentage point from this time last year.
- Online sales decreased 1 point in that same period.
- Historically, consumers pay a slightly lower average price when purchasing in-store. This trend continued as of September 2023 data, with an average price of $514 for online purchases and $504 for in-store sales.
Other key U.S. cell phone market insights
Durable IQ goes beyond retailer and brand market share, providing a total market view for the cell phone industry. Here are a few other key insights as of September 2023!
Most popular cell phone service provider: Verizon was the most popular service provider for cell phone purchasers within the last year — with 25% of purchasers using Verizon. However, Verizon usage is down 2 points from this time last year.
Most popular cellular plan (pre-paid or post-paid?): As of September 2023, most purchasers (57%) use a cell plan that is billed at end of bill period (post-paid). This trend is up 0.6 points since September 2022.
Are consumers likely to change service providers? No. 76% of consumers purchasing cell phones do not change to a new service provider. However, that standard has trended down in recent years, losing nearly 2 points from this time last year.
Cell Phone Shopper Demographics
Who is the typical cell phone purchaser? As of September 2023, TraQline’s census-balanced respondent pool shows that:
- 61% of cell phone purchasers are homeowners
- 52% of purchasers are married
- 40% of cell phone purchases are made with males only involved in the purchase
- 21% of purchases are made with males and females involved in the purchase
- Millennials (25%) and Gen Z (9%) have continued to gain the past several years — up 1.7 points and 1.8 points, respectively, from this time last year
- 63% of purchasers are in generations Gen X (30%) or Baby Boomers (33%)
- Both groups are flat or are down versus last year
- Gen X purchases are flat versus last year and purchases by Baby Boomers are down 2.8 points
Cell Phone Purchase Drivers
As seen in previous years, the most mentioned reason for purchasing a cell phone is “old one was broken” with 49% of consumers selecting it as a primary purchase driver.
- Other top reasons for purchase include “old one is fine, I just want a new one” (24%) and “switched to another carrier or provider” (9%).
When selecting specific retailer for purchase, the most mentioned reason for was “competitive price”, with 43% of purchasers citing this as a driver.
- Other frequent mentions for retailer selection include “previous store experience” (36%), “good product selection” (24%), and “convenient location” (22%).
Get more insight into cell phone trends and market share
The cell phone market insights don’t stop here. For more retail sales data, market share, and insights on the cell phone market, download the Durable IQ-exclusive infographic below. To see insights for other industries or find out how we can help power growth for your business, contact us today.