Israelis Love Smartphones, Tepid About Tablets, Market Data Show

Global technology market research firm IDC studies the foibles of the Israeli digital consumer.

Amitai Ziv
Amitai Ziv
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Amitai Ziv
Amitai Ziv

They love smartphones, don't find tablets that interesting and prefer to do their shopping at their neighborhood computer store. These are some of the foibles of the Israeli digital consumer, according to data compiled by the global technology market research firm IDC.

The average Israeli family spends NIS 4,000 a year on computers and other devices - a figure that has been growing since 2007 when the amount was just NIS 2,600, IDC said. The difference has been mostly filled by extra spending on smartphones and laptops, according to the figures provided by IDC's CEO, Gideon Lopez, and Erez Suissa, the firm's analyst specializing in personal computers and telecom services.

The market has been in a slump since the middle of 2011, but Lopez is bullish. "In the end, even grandma will have a smartphone - a smartphone with grandma applications," he said.

Cells: Android leads

Last year was a milestone for the digital market as for the first time smartphones outsold traditional devices, known as feature phones. Of 1.8 million devices sold in the private sector, about 856,000 were the old models and were 964,000 smartphones, according to IDC.

The competition is a close race between the Samsung Galaxy and Apple's iPhone, with the Korean brand slightly ahead. Samsung enjoys a 34% share of the Israeli smartphone market - two percentage points ahead of the iconic iPhone. IDC estimates there are about 714,000 iPhones in use in Israel altogether.

Way behind are Sony-Ericsson and Nokia, each with a 9% market share, the BlackBerry with 8%, and LG with 5% (much of that due to the fact that the government gives them to civil servants entitled to one ).

From a technology-platform perspective, however, it is Android that has the biggest share, with 51% of all phones, according to IDC. Apple's iOS follows with about a third. Nokia's Symbian and BlackBerry's OS are in the single digits. That is a revolution: As recently as 2009, Symbian controlled 80% of the smartphone market, while iOS had just 16%, and Android a mere 3%. Microsoft's platform, Window Phone, has only a negligible market share today.

"If Microsoft wants to protect the PC world, it needs a strong place in the mobile world. It's a matter of life or death," said Lopez.

He said that in Israel there are 6.5 million phones in actual use and about 2 million of them are smartphones - a rate of penetration similar to the American market.

Tablets: iPad rules

Israelis love their smartphones, but they are much less infatuated with tablets. Some 178,000 were sold last year, according to IDC. "If you divide the number of tablets by the population of the United States, you get a penetration rate of 0.9%. In Israel, it's 0.2%," said Suissa.

In terms of market share for the devices, however, Israelis are no different than Americans and Europeans, preferring Apple's iPad over all the others. The iPad accounts for 55% of the market, with 117,000 devices. Among the Android offerings, Samsung is the leader with a 19% market share. The others have single-digit market shares.

The question is whether the tablet will eventually become a must-have product like the Smartphone is today. Lopez is doubtful.

"In five years' time, tablet sales will reach a peak of half a million devices annually in Israel," he said. "A lot of people say, 'Smartphones have changed my life. I already have one, why do I need a tablet? At work I sit in front of a computer, at home I have a computer, and when I'm out I don't have a briefcase because most men don't carry one.'"

PCs: Buying less online

Israelis bought 356,000 laptops and 181,000 desktop computers in 2011, IDC said. The average desktop computer is in use for five years, compared with three or four years for a laptop. Most users only replace their computer when it has given up the ghost, in contrast to smartphones, which people replace as technology changes.

In the laptop kingdom, it is Dell that rules, with a 24% market share. It is followed by Asus with 18%, HP with 15% and Lenovo with 11%, according to IDC. In contrast to the smartphone and tablet markets, Apple is an also-ran in laptops, with just 2% of the market.

When it comes to buying a computer, Israelis are unusual by international standards. They prefer to shop at their local computer store and not at big chains. In France, for instance, big chain stores have 70% of the market and in Britain 60%, while in Israel they have just 40%.

Nor do Israelis buy their computers (or much else, for that matter ) online. Lopez attributes that to cultural factors.

"In the past, we used to buy [custom] 'assembled' computers with processor X and disk drive Y," he said. "This fostered a culture of buying locally. You have been buying with someone for years and it creates a relationship of trust, which continues to today even though laptops are not assembled but prepackaged products."

Israelis love their smartphones just as much as these employees dressed as iPhone 4 phonesCredit: Bloomberg
Gideon Lopez, left, and Erez Suissa.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

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