Is Apple Becoming the Favorite Brand of Kids and Teens?

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

In an era of mobile games, Netflix, and YouTube, can Apple’s popularity among children and teens eclipse their favor for childhood mainstays and make the tech giant a leading brand among teens? With new surveys and studies indicating that Apple is dominant both for children and teens, it seems that it can.

PiperJaffray recently shared the results of its Fall 2014 Teen Survey. For analyst Gene Munster, one of the most notable responses that the survey gathered occurred when researchers asked 7,200 U.S. teens whether they would be interested in “buying an iWatch for $350,” prior to the official announcement of the Apple Watch. Only 16% of teens surveyed said that they would be interested in purchasing the smartwatch, down from the 17% who reported that they would be interested when polled for the spring survey.

Munster notes that given the anticipation and speculation that preceded the launch of the Apple Watch, he would have expected to see “at least a small uptick in interest from teens in the watch.” Munster cites teens’ “tepid” interest in the Apple Watch as another data point that supports a conservative outlook for the device’s first year of sales. But even more interesting than teens’ modest response to the smartwatch is their interest in the Apple products that are already on the market.

However, in the same survey, Piper Jaffray gained new insight into “Apple’s position as the leading technology company for teens.” Sixty-seven percent of teens said that they owned an iPhone, up from 61% in the spring survey, with the increase seemingly coming almost entirely from Android, which lost 5 percentage points since spring. Seventy-three percent of teens stated that they expect their next phone to be an iPhone.

Additionally, 63% of teens who participated in the PiperJaffray survey reported that they owned a tablet, and the tablet market share reported by the study for the iPad Air and iPad Mini remained at 66%, where it stood in the spring survey. Munster also points out that Microsoft’s Surface had 10% market share — the fall survey was the first in which the tablet was included — and Android tablets decreased 9 percentage points since spring. Of teens who expected to buy a tablet in the next six months, 60% expected to buy an iPad Air or Mini, and 19% expected to buy the Surface.

Separately, a recent study found that Apple products are popular not only among teens, but among younger children as well. Research by Smarty Pants, a market research consultancy that studies youth and their parents, found that the iPad is the number one brand (PDF) among children ages 6 to 12. The “Young Love” study, conducted annually, ranks more than 250 brands, and this year found that, “Apple’s iPad trumps iconic kid brands such as McDonald’s, Toys”R”Us, Nickelodeon, and Disney.”

Wynne Tyree, the firm’s president, characterizes the iPad’s No.1 status among children as an representative of the culmination of the “tablet takeover,” which has seen a movement away from shared screens and the dominance of TV networks toward “curated content on personal devices.” Tyree noted that, “Kids increasingly turn to iPad for games, TV shows, videos, books, homework help, and communicating with friends and family.”

The study further explained that children see the iPad as the definitive all-in-one digital tool, which gives them “a unique sense of independence.” In the five years since the iPad’s launch, the tablet has quickly climbed up the ranks of the annual study, pointing to its surge in popularity among children and families. Tyree explained that, “In just five years, the iPad has risen from ranking 109th to being kids’ favorite brand. Early on, it captured the hearts of tweens and middle and upper class familiess, but iPad is now an indispensable part of childhood for the masses.”

Digital entertainment brands, among them Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, Android, and Samsung, posted increases in “Kidfinity,” the measure that Smarty Pants uses to quantify children’s awareness and love of a brand, and its popularity among them. The study points out that these services, like those offered by the iPad, are “always on,” and offer a seemingly infinite array of options to children.

The top 25 brands in this year’s Young Love study are as follows: iPad, Hershey’s, Oreo, M&M’s, Doritos, Cheetos, Skittles, Disney, YouTube, Xbox, Lay’s, Kit Kat, Nickelodeon, Crayola, McDonald’s, Wii, Reese’s, Chips Ahoy!, iPod, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Popsicle, Netflix, iPhone, Toys”R”Us, and Apple. A penchant for candy and junk food aside, the range of the top brands — which all scored north of 800 on the Kidfinity scale of 1 to 1,000 — shows that Apple devices are the dominant platform for viewing and interacting with digital content. The highest ranked provider of digital content on the list is childhood mainstay Disney, only six points ahead of YouTube.

The full version of Piper Jaffray’s “Taking Stock with Teens” survey (PDF) notes similar trends among those older than the 6 to 12-year-olds that Smarty Pants surveyed. Teens are increasingly accessing movie rentals via download and streaming services, and Netflix continues to gain market share. However, 18% of teens still use DVD kiosks and 13% expect to use Redbox in five years. Moreover, 80% of teens surveyed play mobile games, and 22% spend money on virtual goods or add-ons like extra levels.

The Pew Research Internet Project found in 2013 that 37% of American youth ages 12-17 now have a smartphone, up from 23% in 2011. One in four teens has a tablet, and 93% of teens have a computer or access to one. Those numbers have undoubtedly risen since Pew’s latest update. IBT reported early in 2014 that in the UK, more than a quarter of children under the age of eight own a tablet computer, and research found that 29% of toddlers could use a smartphone or tablet by the age of three, while 10% could operate such a device before their second birthday.

Notably, the research conducted in the UK by uSwitch reported that almost a fifth of parents believed that their children under the age of 16 are “addicted” to smartphones and tablets, and more than a quarter said their children would “feel lost” without them. While children under 16 are most likely to own a game console of all tech products — with 91% of parents reporting having bought at least one for their child — the next most likely category was a basic mobile phone, with smartphones coming in much lower on the list, in tenth position.

However, ZDNet notes that a Zact survey in 2013 projected that smartphone ownership rates among U.S. children and teens would increase dramatically. By Zact’s estimation, 44% of U.S. kids between 12 and 17 had a smartphone in 2013. It projected that that number would rise to 51% in 2014, 59% in 2015, 66% in 2016, and 73% in 2017. If Apple maintains its current popularity among kids and teens, it could benefit from that rise in ownership. As Forbes reported in April, 1,000 people from ages 13 to 33 told branding firm Moosylvania their favorite brands, and Apple was overwhelmingly the most popular response.

As tech products like smartphones and tablets gain in popularity, children and teens already like and are familiar with Apple’s products. Among young children, the iPad is so popular not only because it’s present in many homes, but because it’s easy to interact with and connects them with all of the content and services that they want to access.

Among teens, the iPhone is popular also because it’s ubiquitous and, quite simply, because it’s popular. Like the brands that teens favor in fashion or food, Apple is regarded as a status symbol. If the company can continue to position its iPhone and iPad as the premium choice, both for adults and teens, then more teens are likely to convince their parents to buy them an iPhone, an iPad, or even an Apple Watch as ownership grows among U.S. children and teens, who are becoming increasingly connected and opinionated on the brands of smartphones and tablets they like and want to own. With more parents buying tablets and smartphones for their families, Apple can benefit from getting more adults to purchase iPads and iPhones for their families so that more children grow up with Apple as a visible and favorite brand.

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