If recent history is any guide, roughly a third of the people snapping up Apple's new iPhone are likely to carry it in a purse.
In a big shift for the phone industry, women have emerged as eager buyers not just of iPhones but of all so-called smartphones—BlackBerrys, Treos and other models. Last year, the number of American women using smartphones more than doubled to 10.4 million, growing at a faster pace than among men, according to Nielsen Mobile, which tracks wireless trends.
The trend is mirrored in sales of the iPhone. In October, nearly one out of four owners of the iPhone was a woman, according to Nielsen. By March, that number rose to one in three. The iPhone model announced Monday, with faster Internet access and mapping features, may accelerate the shift.
Smartphones are cheaper now—as little as $99 for the petite BlackBerry Pearl—and are better designed. Women have been using them for years in business, of course, but many are finding that the phones can also help manage their families' time-pressured schedules and keep them in touch with friends.
“You are not seen as a geek anymore if you have a smartphone," said Carolina Milanesi, research director at Gartner Group, a research firm. “Women, including wives and mothers, need to keep track of their busy lives, too.” The phone makers and service providers increasingly see women as the path to the entire household. According to Verizon Wireless, 71% of women make the decision about their family's wireless choices, including phones and service plans (smartphones require data plans that can cost $30 or more a month).
As a result, smartphone makers are beginning to market specifically to women. Research In Motion, based in Waterloo, Ontario, has taken out ads for its BlackBerry phones in ‘Elle’, ‘Martha Stewart Living’ and ‘O, The Oprah Magazine’. Lina Caputo, a part-time teacher from Waterloo, said her husband, who runs a networking company that is not connected to RIM, gave her a second-hand BlackBerry a year ago so they could better manage their two sons' schedules.
“It was a nightmare with the four of us," Caputo said, ticking off a list of her sons' after-school activities, including soccer, hockey and swim practices." My sons have about 10 hours of sports. It got to be too much. It was confusing."
Caputo said she and her husband regularly sync their calendars. She uses the phone to send emails to her husband when she gets home safely from a snowy trip, and to keep in touch with close friends who regularly gather at a local coffee shop.
When six of them went to Las Vegas for a “girls' weekend" in February, five of them brought their BlackBerrys so they could keep track of each other and their kids back home. Caputo is no longer using her husband’s hand-me-downs. On Mother's Day, he bought her a new BlackBerry Pearl, one of the company's best-selling phones.
“I don't equate it to getting a vacuum or a blender,” she said, when asked if she would have rather received flowers or chocolate. “Besides, my girlfriend got a red one for Valentine’s Day."
©2008/ The New York Times