Survey reveals 40 per cent of teens own an iPhone – is this the end for Vita and 3DS?

Investment bank and asset management firm Piper Jaffray has released the results from a recent survey of over 7,700 American teens, revealing that 40 per cent of those surveyed own an iPhone (up from 34 per cent the prior spring, and 23 per cent year-on-year).

More than that, 62 per cent intend to buy an iPhone as their next smartphone, while 22 per cent have their sights set on an Android device. Tablets also had a high take-up in the age group, with 44 per cent of the survey group owning one (72 per cent of those were iPads).

The survey only takes into account a small sample of American teens, but with such a fast-growing percentage of ownership, the potential market for Sony and Nintendo’s handheld consoles can only be dwindling further.

While both companies are making moves to compete with smartphones – Sony’s cross-platform PlayStation Mobile store, for example, and Nintendo’s gradual shift towards low-priced DLC – the fact remains that smartphones offer a more convenient gaming platform than the bespoke, and more bulky, Vita and 3DS.

The prospect of an even more affordable tablet, in the shape of the as-yet-unconfirmed iPad Mini, only tips the balance further in the favour of smart devices over dedicated portable gaming devices.

“Overall, we expect Apple devices to continue to expand in teen ownership and believe that the company is set up well to benefit from loyalty among its younger user base,” said report author and analyst Gene Munster.

Speaking to the New York Times at the beginning of the week, Finnish developer Supercell’s general manager Greg Harper said that he believed the growth of the tablet market represented a real threat to Nintendo and Sony’s efforts.

“That market seems in trouble to me,” he said. “The iPad mini could be one of the final nails in the coffin.”

Supercell’s two iOS games are, according the company, currently grossing upwards of $500,000 a day – an eye-opening figure.

Munster concurs with Harper’s assessment: “The smaller iPad appears to be an attractive option for teens as 43 per cent of teens planning on buying a tablet said they would be more likely to do so if Apple released a smaller iPad at $299.”

While for those of us raised on handheld consoles, from Game Boys and Lynxes to Neo Geo Pockets and WonderSwans, it’s a painful realisation, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that a device which includes games among a galaxy of other functions is for most consumers simply a more appealing prospect than one with a proprietary storage format. Rather than attempt to ape smartphones’ successes, then, Nintendo and Sony should look to capitalise on the unique features of their products in order to differentiate them from smart devices.

While we’re on the subject of smartphones, you might like to read our iPhone 5 review.

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