Among top trends coming out from the NATPE Conference that took place in Las Vegas last week is that marketers are realizing that content is a key feature that’s driving the marketplace. As agencies continue to struggle with reaching end users via ads on mobile phones”, it’s the producers of content that are making the connection. Some say this is a result of the iPhone and iPod generation, however as we’ve tracked at Label Networks globally across 13-30- year-olds in North America, Japan, China, and Europeand in some cases, for the past 8 yearsthere are more reasons for the changes in key features demanded. We’ve seen significant cultural characteristics as well as changes in what youth culture want by specific demographics within their cell phone, which of course indicates where future trends are headed as young people demand more from what’s become a their ultimate communication and entertainment devicenot to mention symbol of cool.

Cell phones generally have become this markets’ mini-computer. Similar to Japan and Europe, where mobile phones do act as the youth market’s computers from texting to checking things healthymanviagra on the web and playing gamesthis movement is also moving into younger demographics that are introduced to cell phones.

While it is doubtful that cell phones will completely replace computers (compared with Japan, where for example, computers are not as widely used as mobile phones and phones are in essence, the youth market’s “computers”) in North America, cell phones are taking over more of the roles that only a computer once offeredespecially when it comes to texting as a form of communication, photo capabilities, downloading, and now video recording and listening to music.

Text messaging has also spawned an entirely new language for communication using emoticons, grammatical symbols, and shortened letters to indicate meaning. You can see this also cropping up in text on T-shirts, plus accessories such as buttons/pins, MySpace pages, blogs, and in general email communication patterns. Young people also expect clothing that’s cell-phone- compatible such as discrete pockets that fit their phone, backpack cell phone pockets, and side pockets in denim jeans, skirts, dresses, and outerwear. In addition, cell phone charms (especially in China and Japan), mini-stickers, colors, branded phones,limited editions, wallpaper by graffiti artists (i.e., with Boost phones), are also an important part of accessorizing in general.

Cell phone culture is another example of electronics/technology crossing over into fashion, as well as fusing music (ring-tones and listening to music) and entertainment (gaming).

However in many cases, particularly among 13-14-year-olds who are on the cusp of getting their first cell phone, young people are limited in choices because their parents often pay for their services and the phone itself. The cell phone market however, is one market where parents and kids alike find them mutually beneficialto keep tabs on their kids, and for young people to keep tabs on their friends.

When asked, “Which phone features are most important to you?” Text messaging continues to be the #1 feature at 34.4%, which is an increase from 30.7% in the Spring Report ’07, which is up from 28.1% in the Fall Report ’06, and up from the Spring Report ’06. As we’ve tracked, Text Messaging is the most used features on a cell phone among this marketplace, even higher than actually making phone calls. And as indicated in the results to the question below about average texting patterns, they have doubled since the Spring Report ’07.

This is followed by Ringtones at 22.6% which has greatly increased since the Spring Report ’07 at 22.6%, followed by Size/Shape at 14.6% which has decreased from 17.9% in the Spring Report ’07. This is followed by Photo capabilities which also increased at 8.7%, then Other at 6.1% which can mean a variety of things, followed by Listen to music at 6%, Video recording at 2.4%, Ability to check email at 2% (see charts and graphs for additional features).

By gender”, Text messaging is slightly higher among females at 35.2% compared with 33.5% of males, but is has increased among males notably since the Spring Report ’07 up from 27%. The surprising increase in Ringtones is mostly among females at 24.4% compared with 20.8% of males, although both genders have increased in wanting this as a key feature. Other notable differences by gender are the higher percentages among females who say Photo Capabilities at 9.6% compared with 7.7% of males, and Listen to music at 7% among males compared with 5% of females.

By age groups, Text messaging is high across the board, but peaks among younger demographics. Generally there’s a new generation that communicates mostly via texting. Ringtones is also high across all age groups, but peaks among 21-25-year-olds at 24% of this age group, whereas Size/Shape peaks among 18-20-year-ols at 17.8%. Photo capabilities is highest among 13-14-year-olds at 11.2% of this age group, followed by 9.3% of 18-20-year-olds. Interesting to note is that Listen to Music is higher among younger demographics, as well as Play video games, however Video recording peaks among 21-25-year-olds.

Overall, there are clear distinctions in key cell phone features based on gender but in particular, by age groups. This knowledge can be used for reaching specific target markets, for example, highlighting texting capabilities for younger demographics, Video Recording for older, and Ringtones across more age groups.

For more information on cell phone key features across Europe, Japan, and China, email; (323) 630-4000 about our Premium Global Youth Culture Subscription 2008.