By Natasha Baker
TORONTO (Reuters) - Wealthier smartphone users are less likely to play games or tweet and will opt for news, travel or finance apps, according to a new study.
The research by The Luxury Institute focused on app usage among wealthy consumers, who earn an annual income of $150,000 or more. They tend to be older, with a mean age of 52.
"As you get older and have family and significant others, aging parents, and a lot more assets and investments, you're going to need apps for far more relevant things than playing games and chatting with your peers," said Milton Pedraza, CEO of The Luxury Institute.
The findings are in contrast to smartphone usage as a whole, which research firm Nielsen showed is dominated by games and social networking categories.
The wealthy use Facebook and Angry Birds, the two most downloaded apps of 2011, but overall, higher-income consumers use apps for entertainment far less than the average smartphone user, according to Pedraza.
While wealthy consumers are only slightly more likely to have a smartphone than the general population, Nielsen said the breakdown of devices owned differs considerably.
Forty-five percent of wealthy smartphone users own an iPhone, followed 35 percent with an Android device and a quarter who had a Blackberry. But Nielsen found that overall Android had 46 percent of market share, followed by the iPhone with 30 percent and Blackberry with 15 percent.
"Google's strategy with Android is that they have multiple manufacturing partners," explained Jonathan Carson, the CEO of digital at Nielsen. "There's a broader choice with Android in the number of devices, and that may offer some opportunities for lower-end consumers."
He added that the iPhone has always done quite well with high-income consumers.
Carson also noted an upswing in the number of smartphone users adopting iPhones within the last few months, which he attributes to the iPhone 4S, and Apple's strategy to keep lower-priced models on the market at lower-price points to appeal to a wider range of consumers.
The study also showed that more than 80 percent of affluent consumers have downloaded apps and many have opted for paid apps and in-app upgrades. But on average, wealthier consumers download about half as many apps as the average consumer.
Among wealthy smartphone users, 67 percent have used their mobile device to shop for products or services online with tickets, gift cards, food or electronics the most popular purchases.
"There are a large number of people that still love to shop in the store, and I don't think it's only older people," Pedraza said, adding apps can augment the in-store experience.
The marketing firm Plastic Mobile polled 603 consumers whose mean income was $295,000 and net worth was $2.8 million for The Luxury Institute study.
(Editing by Patricia Reaney)