Research shows that smartphone ownership has been on a steady rise, and figures have been staggering. More than half of US mobile phone users own a smartphone, which accounts for 9.14 million smartphones. All over the world, there are five billion mobile phone users, and from this total, there are over one billion smartphone users.
This data is significant not only for mobile phone users, but for marketing researchers as well. Smartphones are important mobile research devices – it makes it possible to conduct research anytime, anywhere-- and this is where the opportunities lie for mobile research.
The camera function of mobile phones make it possible for researchers to see and experience what the participants are experiencing at any given time. For example, the participants may upload information, including photos or videos directly from their smartphone without having to transfer them to a computer first.
Because smartphones are handy and smaller compared to handheld video recorders or cameras, smartphones make it easier for participants to capture and share photos, video clips and even voice recordings. They may even interact with mobile researchers and other participants in an online group forum, which is, so to speak, an online version of a focus group discussion.
This characteristic of smartphones and other mobile devices gives mobile research more possibilities when it comes to data-gathering because it does not force participants to remain in a single location, tethered to a research study area. Aside from the above-mentioned advantages of smartphones, mobile research makes it possible to know the exact location of participants. That is, users may now “check-in” to locations using their smartphones, when part of the research is to keep a travel diary.
Furthermore, the ease of use of mobile phones ensures that the participants will send in their reports and observations and increases the follow through. Add to that is the voice-to-text functionality of smartphones, which enables participants to dictate their responses while on the go, increasing the accuracy of the report in terms of the time it is sent during the course of an assigned research activity. The additional photos, videos and other forms of data submitted clearly describe the behavior under study much more than words can. This mixture of different types of data enhances mobile research in a way that it yields findings which are much more extensive and thorough than other forms of qualitative research. Smartphones has indeed taken mobile research into the next level getting richer and more vivid data, in the moment.