In the past two years, the number of teens with smartphones has nearly tripled to 4.8 million from 1.7 million during the same period in 2009, according to market research firm ComScore.
Currently 28.7 percent of teen cellphone users carry smartphones, and analysts expect that more than 50 percent will have one next year.
AT&T Inc. is releasing two phones this summer that will cater to teens - the HTC Status and the LG Thrill 4G. The Status allows users to instantly share information to Facebook with the click of a button, and the Thrill is a smartphone, featuring 3-D graphics (no glasses needed). Both will run Google Inc.’s Android operating system.
When Apple Inc.’s newest operating system, iOS 5, comes out this fall, it will come equipped with iMessage, a service that will go head-to-head with Research in Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry Messenger service, which teens love.
The iPhone has a built-in following because teens are familiar with Apple’s operating system through their iPods and are drawn to the variety of applications. The company, which sells more smartphones than any other manufacturer overall, has 29 percent of the teen market, a slight increase from a year ago.
“For teenagers, it doesn’t matter what the brand is, but what really matters is what the phone does for them,’’ said Freddie Benjamin, research manager for mobileYouth, a research firm that studies youth marketing and behavior. “It is the key to their social life, it is an extension of them.’’
Regardless of which smartphone system teens are using, studies show they take full of advantage of the modern cellphone - more so than adults. According to ComScore, teens are more likely to use applications, play games, text, take and share photos and video, and access social networks directly from their phone.
That same study also found that few teens pay their own cellphone bills - only 9.3 percent, while 76.5 percent are on family plans.