Editor’s note: This is the first part in a three-part series that is based on responses to an Inman News survey on real estate professionals’ use of smart phones and mobile applications. This article, Part 1, focuses on the popularity of smart phones and their features among different groups of industry professionals; Part 2 focuses on the mobile apps respondents use the most, as well as how they use them and which they would recommend; and, the final article will look at the feasibility of respondents’ ideas for an ultimate "killer app" they would like to use in their business.

Apple iPhones have gone mainstream in the real estate industry. An Inman News survey reveals that more real estate professionals and technologists are using iPhones than other smart phones — and turn to them more frequently for a range of business activities.

Mobile technologies have exploded in an array of smart phones and thousands of apps. The Inman News smart phone and mobile technology survey explored the impact of this mobile revolution on real estate professionals and their industry.

The survey, which ran from July 28, 2010, through Aug. 6, 2010, garnered responses from 313 real estate professionals and technologists. Some respondents did not answer all of the survey questions; the average number of responses per question was 247.

Of those surveyed, 57.7 percent identified themselves as real estate agents or salespeople, 22.6 percent as brokers or brokerage executives, and 12 percent identified themselves as working for real estate technology companies, vendors, trade groups and multiple listing services.

These three groupings of respondents will be referred to as "agents," "brokers" and "technologists" throughout the report.

Professionals in other sectors of the industry, including mortgage and title professionals, made up 7.7 percent of respondents (See Figure 1).

                                                              Figure 1

The survey covered respondents’ current occupation, the make and model of their smart phone, the names and quantities of the mobile apps on their phone, how often they used their phone, and how frequently they performed specific tasks on their phone, among other areas.

For those questions that sought only one response but received more than one (for example, respondents in some cases own and use multiple smart phones), only the first answer was included in survey results. These questions include the type of phone owned; the kind of phone respondents planned to purchase in the next six months; and the respective names of the mobile apps they used most, downloaded most recently and recommended the most.                                                

According to the survey, 41.8 percent of respondents own an iPhone. That’s compared to an estimated 24.4 percent of the overall U.S. population 13 and above, according to comScore’s mobile use report for May — the latest month for which data is available. The report does not incorporate data for Apple’s iPhone 4, which was released in June.

About 26.1 percent of respondents own BlackBerry smart phones, compared with 19.4 percent who own Android-based smart phones and 10 percent who own Palm smart phones (see Figure 2).

                                                             Figure 2

Among the 58 respondents who own smart phones that tap Google’s Android operating system, the most popular brands identified were HTC, Motorola and Samsung. Twenty-six respondents said they own an HTC smart phone that uses the Android system: 13 own an HTC Evo, while the rest own either an HTC Hero, Aria, Eris, Incredible, myTouch or myTouch Slide.

Twenty-two respondents said they own a Motorola Droid smart phone and two own the Motorola Cliq. Six respondents said they own Samsung models: three have a Samsung Moment, two a Galaxy X, and one an Acclaim. One respondent identified the smart phone simply as an "Android," without further detail, and one owns a Google Nexus One, a now-discontinued model.

Of 78 BlackBerry users, 27 said they own a BlackBerry Curve, 24 have a Bold, 11 own a Storm, 8 own a Tour, two own a Pearl, and one owns a BlackBerry World Edition. The rest did not identify a specific model.

Of 125 iPhone users, more than half (69) reported that they own either an iPhone 3G or 3GS. Interestingly, 36 percent (45) of iPhone owners who took the survey said they own an iPhone 4, which was released in June. The rest own earlier models or did not identify a specific model.

Of 29 respondents who are Palm users, 14 said they own a Treo; five own a Palm Pre; five own a Palm Pre Plus; four own a Centro; and one owns a Pixi.

                                                             Figure 3 

Note: Generic references to a smart phone — which did not include a specific model number or type — are not included in these rankings.

Among the "technologists" group of respondents, which includes workers at tech companies, real estate vendors, trade groups and MLSs, iPhone popularity was strongest: 57.1 percent said they own an iPhone. And almost half (48 percent) of brokers and brokerage company execs said they own an iPhone, compared with 38.5 percent of agents.

BlackBerrys were most prevalent among agents — 29.3 percent of respondents in this group said they own a BlackBerry, compared with 20.9 percent of brokers and 20 percent of technologists. About the same share of each group owned an Android phone: 18.4 percent of agents, 17.9 percent of brokers and 17.1 percent of technologists.

Palms were more prevalent among agents and brokers (10.3 percent and 9 percent, respectively) than technologists (5.7 percent).

A separate study, conducted in March by consumer behavioral research company Experian Simmons, found that among U.S. adults with a cell phone who spent at least an hour a week online on the phones for purposes other than e-mail, at least 11 percent owned an iPhone and 9 percent owned a BlackBerry.

For those adults who had looked at real estate listings online in the past 30 days, those percentages were 13 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

According to Simmons, those consumers were 21 percent more likely to own an iPhone than the average cell phone-owning adult, while they were 4 percent less likely to own a BlackBerry.

The results could underestimate the number of users for both operating systems because 42 percent of adults polled did not know which operating system their phone used.

A survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors’ Center for Realtor Technology in January found percentages of iPhone and BlackBerry users among Realtors were roughly reversed from the more recent Inman News survey: 26.2 percent and 38.2 percent.

In that same NAR survey, about 75 percent of respondents who identified themselves as iPhone owners indicated they were "extremely satisfied" with their smart phone, compared with 40 percent of BlackBerry users and 31 percent of Palm users.

That survey also found that 30.3 percent of current smart phone owners planning to replace their current phone in the next year were likely to purchase an iPhone, compared with 26.1 percent who said they would likely purchase a BlackBerry.

Among non-smart-phone users, 22.6 percent said they would likely buy an iPhone, just above the 21.3 percent who said they planned to purchase a BlackBerry smart phone.

In the Inman News survey, only 61 of 313 respondents (19.5 percent) said they plan to purchase a smart phone in the next six months. Of those respondents, despite some well-publicized iPhone antenna and reception troubles, the majority (62.3 percent) said they would buy an iPhone — and most of those respondents said they would purchase the iPhone 4.

A quarter of those respondents who plan to purchase a smart phone in the next six months said they are considering an Android-based smart phone; the HTC Evo and Incredible were the most popular Android models mentioned. About 10 percent of respondents said they would buy a BlackBerry — with no particular standouts among models (see Figure 4).

                                                               Figure 4

IPhones appear to inspire the most loyalty among users — only one survey respondent with an iPhone planned to switch to another type of smart phone within the next six months.

Of 24 current BlackBerry users in the market for a new phone, five said they planned to upgrade to another BlackBerry within the next six months. Thirteen said they planned to buy an iPhone, while four said they planned to purchase a smart phone with Google’s Android operating system.

Smart phone adoption among Realtors has been accelerating in recent years. More than half (56 percent) of all Realtors reported using a smart phone with wireless e-mail and Internet capabilities, according to the National Association of Realtors’ 2010 Member Profile.

That’s up from 42 percent in 2009 and 34 percent in 2008. Less-experienced Realtors lead the way — 66 percent of those with two years of experience or less reported using the technology daily or nearly daily, compared with 48 percent among those with 16 years of experience or more.

In the Inman smart phone survey, the largest share of respondents (38.4 percent) said they spent one to two hours for work-related purposes on their smart phone each day, while 31.6 percent said they spent three to four hours working on their smart phone daily.

Only 6.5 percent spent eight hours or more using their smart phone for work-related purposes daily, and 11.4 percent said they spend less than an hour on their smart phone (see Figure 5) each day.

About 20.1 percent of agents logged five or more hours on their smart phones daily for work-related tasks, compared with 10.1 percent of real estate brokers, managers and executives and 16.7 percent of technologists (this grouping of respondents includes those working for real estate vendors, MLSs and trade groups). Not one technologist reported using a smart phone more than seven hours a day related to work.

                                                             Figure 5

IPhone users were slightly more likely to spend more work-related time on their smart phone: 18.8 percent reported spending five hours or more daily on their smart phones, compared with 18.2 percent of BlackBerry users, 15.4 percent of Android users and 7.1 percent of Palm users.

BlackBerry users were the most likely to spend less than an hour on their smart phone every day: 13 percent vs. 10.7 percent for Palm users, 10.3 percent for Android users and 8.9 percent for iPhone users.

Half of Palm users in the Inman survey said they spend one to two hours daily on their devices related to work, compared with 40.7 percent of iPhone users, 39.7 percent of Android users and 36.4 percent of BlackBerry users. About 34.5 percent of Android users said they spend three to four hours on their phones for work-related purposes each day, compared with 32.5 percent of BlackBerry users, 32.1 percent of Palm users and 31.7 percent of iPhone users.

Not surprisingly, the largest share of all respondents (80.3 percent) said phone calls were among the "most frequent" business-related tasks for which they use their smart phone, followed by e-mail messages (75.2 percent), "calendar/appointments" (60.3 percent), and text messages (43 percent).

About 88 percent of agents said phone calls were among the "most frequent" business-related tasks for which they used their smart phone, compared with 79.1 percent of broker respondents and 52.8 percent of technologists (see Figure 6).

                                                                         Figure 6

About 77 percent of agents and technologists (this group includes those who work for real estate technology companies, vendors, trade groups and MLSs) reported e-mail among the "most frequent" business-related uses for their smart phones, compared with 71.6 percent of brokers.

A consumer study by Experian Simmons, conducted from February 2009 to March 2010, found that 42 percent of those employed in the real estate sales and leasing sector reported using their phones for e-mail, compared with 25 percent of all U.S. adults.

At the same time, 38 percent of those who had looked at real estate listings online in the past 30 days reported using their phones for e-mail; they were 55 percent more likely to do so than the average cell phone-owning adult, according to Simmons.

The Simmons report found that 65 percent of real estate professionals had used their cell phones for text messaging, compared with about two-thirds of all adults who had looked at real estate listings in the past 30 days.

Most respondents to the Inman News survey reported text-messaging often — 78.7 percent said they sent and received text messages at least somewhat frequently using their smart phones. About 82.3 percent of agents reported that they use text-messaging at least somewhat frequently for work, compared with 74.6 percent of brokers and 75 percent of those grouped as technologists.

Palm and iPhone users were the heaviest talkers, with 89.3 percent and 81.5 percent reporting that phone calls were one of the most frequent business uses for their smart phone, compared with 78.2 percent of BlackBerry users and 75.4 percent of Android users.

BlackBerry owners reported a higher frequency of work-related text-messaging and e-mailing than users of other devices. Text messaging was one of their most frequent business-related tasks for 49.4 percent of BlackBerry users, compared with 43.1 percent of iPhone users, 34.5 percent of Android users and 32.1 percent of Palm users.

And 85.9 percent of BlackBerry users reported that e-mailing was among the most frequent business-related uses of their smart phones, compared with 78 percent of iPhone users, 72.4 percent of Android users and 48.1 percent of Palm users.

The majority of surveyed real estate professionals said work-related scheduling ("calendar/appointments") was among the "most frequent" business uses of their smart phones. That figure was 63.3 percent among agents, 55.4 percent for brokers and 58.8 percent for technologists.

About 66.1 of Android users reported work-related scheduling among the most-frequent work-related uses of their smart phone, compared to 65.1 percent of Palm owners, 60 percent of BlackBerry users and 59.5 percent of iPhone users.

Social media and blogging also were near the top of the list for "most frequent" tasks. More than half of respondents (58.3 percent) reported using their smart phones at least somewhat frequently for social networking.

About 48.6 percent of respondents in the technologists group reported blogging or participation in social media among their most frequent work-related tasks on their smart phone. By comparison, comScore’s study found that 20.8 percent of mobile subscribers in the general population accessed a social network or blog from their phone in May.

In the Inman News survey, blogging and social media participation was about the same among Android and iPhone owners: 67.2 percent of Android users and 66.7 percent of iPhone users said they performed one or both of these tasks at least somewhat frequently. By comparison, 51.4 percent of BlackBerry users and 25 percent of Palm users did.

More than half of all respondents (62.6 percent) in the Inman News smart phone survey reported using their smart phone’s GPS for work-related mapping or other location-based activities such as driving directions at least somewhat frequently.

Technologists were much more likely to use this feature at least somewhat frequently for work: 75 percent vs. 61.4 percent of agents and 56.2 percent of brokers.

This feature was quite a bit more popular among iPhone and Android users than their BlackBerry and Palm counterparts: 71.6 percent of iPhone owners and 67.3 percent of Android owners said they used their GPS feature at least somewhat frequently, compared with 48.7 percent of BlackBerry owners and 47.8 percent of Palm owners.

More than half of those surveyed also reported using their smart phone at least somewhat frequently for calculations (57.9 percent), photography/video (54.2 percent), and customer relationship management (52.9 percent).

IPhone and Palm owners were much more likely to perform calculations at least somewhat frequently: 69.4 percent and 64 percent, respectively, versus 46.8 percent for BlackBerry owners and 46.4 percent for Android owners.

Photography and video use was most prevalent among iPhone owners: 62.3 percent reported using this feature at least somewhat frequently, compared with 54.4 percent of Android users, 51.8 percent of Palm users and 41.1 percent of BlackBerry users,

Half of all respondents used their phones for property search and information at least somewhat frequently. About 61.1 percent of those respondents grouped as technologists reported performing this task for work-related purposes at least somewhat frequently using a smart phone, compared with an even 50 percent for agents and 45.5 percent for brokers.

IPhone owners also said they searched for property comparatively more often than their other smart phone-owning counterparts: 57 percent said they performed this task at least somewhat frequently, compared with 50.9 percent of Android users, 42.3 percent of Palm users and 40.5 percent of BlackBerry users.

Mobile customer relationship management was most popular among Android users: 58.1 percent said they performed this task at least somewhat frequently, compared with 53.9 percent of iPhone users, 52.2 percent of Palm users, and 49.3 percent of BlackBerry users.

The least popular smart phone activities among real estate professionals were online advertising and transaction management. More than half, 58.2 percent, reported online advertising and marketing as one of their "least frequent" smart phone tasks, and 43.1 percent said transaction and document management was one of their least frequent tasks.

Brokers were the least likely to engage in online advertising and marketing using their smart phones: 63.9 percent listed this as one of their least frequent tasks, compared with 61.1 percent of agents and 50 percent of technologists.

Brokers were also the least likely to manage sales transactions and documents through their smart phones: 46.8 percent said they performed this task least frequently on their phone, compared with 44.9 percent of agents and 31.3 percent of technologists.

BlackBerry owners were the least likely to use smart phones for online advertising and marketing: 75 percent said it was one of their least frequent tasks, compared with 68.1 percent of Palm owners, 54.5 percent of iPhone owners and 40.4 percent of Android owners.

At the other end of the spectrum, iPhone and Android owners were more likely to say they used their phones for marketing at least somewhat frequently: 18.8 percent and 17.3 percent, respectively, compared with 8.8 percent for BlackBerry owners and 4.5 percent of Palm owners.

BlackBerry and Palm owners were also the least likely to perform the least popular smart phone task: transaction and document management. According to the results, more than half of respondents in those groups said they performed that task least frequently: 56.9 percent among BlackBerry owners and 54.5 percent among Palm owners.

That compares with 41.8 percent of Android users and 30.7 percent of iPhone users. As that last figure implies, transaction management was most popular among iPhone users: 28 percent said they performed that task at least somewhat frequently — corresponding figures for the other smart phone groups were all below 20 percent.

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