The NPD Group: Mobile Phone Consumers Shun Standard Keypads, in Favor of Touch Screen and QWERTY Keyboards

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All 10 of the top-selling mobile phones in the U.S. in Q4 2009 now boast touch-screens or QWERTY keyboards; Droid ranked fifth best-selling mobile phone in the U.S., despite late start.

Regardless of whether they opt for a data plan, consumers want richer user interface options; the humble keypad is losing in the race to optimize a handset's surface.

According to The NPD Group, a leader in wireless industry market research, feature phones are increasingly moving to new forms of input made popular by smartphones. Based on the latest data from NPD’s Mobile Phone Track, with text messaging continuing to be the number one motivating feature for mobile phone buyers, American consumers are increasingly purchasing handsets with touch screens or QWERTY keyboards. In fact all 10 of the top-selling mobile phones purchased in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2009 came equipped with a touch screen, a QWERTY keyboard, or both.

According to Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis at NPD, “Regardless of whether they opt for a data plan, consumers want richer user interface options; the humble keypad is losing in the race to optimize a handset’s surface.” Based on U.S. consumer purchases of mobile phones in Q4, the top 10 handsets were as follows:

1.    RIM BlackBerry Curve (all 83XX models)
2.    LG enV3
3.    Apple iPhone 3GS (both models)
4.    Apple iPhone 3G
5.    Motorola Droid
6.    LG enV Touch
7.    RIM Blackberry Tour
8.    Samsung Intensity
9.    Samsung Solstice
10.    Samsung Impression

The Rise of the Droid

In Q4 2009 Apple, LG and RIM all declined in unit share, and Motorola’s Droid, despite its mid-quarter launch, rose to the fifth most-purchased consumer mobile phone in the U.S.

Rubin views Motorola’s successful introduction of the Droid -- the only smartphone in the top five ranking with both a touch screen and a QWERTY keyboard -- as an early validation of the company’s decision to back the Android operating system (OS) as well as a testament to the promotion offered by its exclusive carrier Verizon Wireless.

As smartphones and other feature-rich phones increase their overall consumer share of the handset market, it’s important to note that 46 percent of phones sold in Q4 2009 had QWERTY keyboards (compared to 31 percent in 2008) and 34 percent had touch screens (compared to 20 percent the prior year).

Methodology: The NPD Group compiles and analyzes mobile device sales data based on more than 150,000 completed online consumer research surveys each month. Surveys are based on a nationally balanced and demographically representative sample, and results are projected to represent the entire population of U.S. consumers. Note: Sales figures do not include corporate/enterprise mobile phone sales.

About The NPD Group, Inc.
The NPD Group is the leading provider of reliable and comprehensive consumer and retail information for a wide range of industries. Today, more than 1,600 manufacturers, retailers, and service companies rely on NPD to help them drive critical business decisions at the global, national, and local market levels. NPD helps our clients to identify new business opportunities and guide product development, marketing, sales, merchandising, and other functions. Information is available for the following industry sectors: automotive, beauty, commercial technology, consumer technology, entertainment, fashion, food and beverage, foodservice, home, office supplies, software, sports, toys, and wireless. For more information, contact us or visit


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