by Tom Kaneshige

Are You Shopping on Your iPhone?

Feb 16, 2010
MobileSmall and Medium Business

A new survey shows the differences between generations.

Among young folks, the iPhone just might have a new name: the mobile mall.

A new Retrevo survey of more than a thousand respondents shows young consumers warming to the idea of shopping on their mobile phones, while older consumers continue to shun the practice.

Slightly more than half of young respondents, ages 18 to 35, said they’ve used a mobile phone to research products, compare prices, and find retailers. On the curmudgeonly side of the scale, only 17 percent of older folks, ages 45 and over, are smartphone shopping.

Whether or not you’ve hit the “buy” button on your mobile phone might have much to do with the generation you come from: 17 percent of respondents ages 18 to 24 have hit the “buy” button, 15 percent for ages 25 to 34, 10 percent for ages 35 to 44, and a lowly 3 percent for ages 45 and up.

Sure, young people are more apt to carry a mobile wallet rather than George Costanza’s wallet. But do they have money to spend?

Gartner analyst Jeff Roster says he felt mobile commerce turned a corner last year when eBay reported that a rare Lamborghini and a $150,000 boat were sold over eBay’s iPhone app. That’s a lot of cash flowing through an iPhone. Another turning point, he says, was the Red Cross raising $7 million over two days for Haiti relief via text messaging.

Gartner adds that money transfer will be the top mobile consumer app area by 2012.

Mobile commerce is clearly at a pivotal point. Bad shopping experiences can derail mobile commerce’s momentum. But this doesn’t seem to be happening, according to the Retrevo study.

The vast majority of respondents who tried mobile shopping had positive things to say about the experience, whereas only 8 percent said mobile shopping wasn’t worth it and they wouldn’t do it again.

Young and old people do agree on at least one thing: mobile advertisements don’t work. Some 30 percent of respondents under the age of 35, and 41 percent over the age of 45, said they find mobile advertisements irritating. Only one in five respondents under the age of 35, and one in 10 over the age of 45, said they’ve responded to a mobile advertisement.

Tom Kaneshige is a senior writer for in Silicon Valley. Send him an email at Or follow him on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline.