Smartphone use in India is quickly becoming the dominant way many of the country’s 900 million mobile phone users stay connected, according to Nielsen’s Indian Smartphone User study. In fact, the country may have as many as 40 million of these devices in use by early this year. The dramatic growth is driven by a desire among users to stay connected and have instant access to social networking sites—a global trend that represents an exponential growth opportunity in developing countries.

Decreasing device and data costs, coupled with a wide range of features that today’s smartphones offer, readily encourage consumers to trade in their traditional cell phones for handsets with much more functionality. To gain a sense of how this new breed of smartphone users is staying connected, Nielsen Informate Mobile Insights, an alliance between Nielsen and Informate Mobile Intelligence, polled more than 10,000 consumers in September and October 2012 across 46 cities in India to assess overall usage and device preferences.

The Indian Smartphone User study found that 93% of smartphone users own only one handset, making it their single source of infotainment on the go. The study also found that smartphone users in India overwhelmingly prefer mobile devices that operate on the Android operating system, which highlights Indian consumers’ desire for a platform that is open and available across multiple brands and prices. While Symbian usage is also high in India, Windows, BlackBerry and iOS devices each only have single-digit market shares.

Tablet Ownership is Set to Spike

Consumer interest in tablets is also on the rise. While only 3% of respondents who participated in the study in the last quarter of 2012 said they owned a tablet, 11% said they intended to purchase one. Consumers are also spending notably more time on their tablets than their Android smartphones—about an hour more.

Smartphone Users Prefer Paying for Game, Chat and Music Apps