Smartphone Ownership Soars in U.S., but Computer Use Drops

The findings by the latest Pew Research Center device ownership report also show tablets being owned by 45 percent of Americans.  

smartphone ownership soars

Some 68 percent of adults in the United States have and are using smartphones this year, compared with 35 percent of adults who had them in mid-2011, according to a new Pew Research Center report on technology device ownership across the nation.

That increase also is accompanied by other striking data, including a 45 percent rate of tablet ownership by American adults and a shrinking base of desktop and laptop computer users as more people switch their computing demands to mobile devices.

The Pew report, Technology Device Ownership: 2015, which was released Oct. 29, also found that smartphone ownership is "nearing the saturation point with some groups," including an 86 percent adoption rate by people who are 18 to 29 years of age, an 83 percent adoption rate by people ages 30 to 49 and an 87 percent rate by people living in households earning $75,000 or more per year.

Countering the increasing use of smartphones, the data also showed dropping or stagnant usage rates for other personal mobile devices, including MP3 players, e-readers, laptop computers and desktop computers.

MP3 player usage among adults in the United States has stayed at or near 40 percent since around 2008, while e-reader use has dropped to about 19 percent from a high of about 32 percent in 2013, according to the Pew data. At the same time, laptop and desktop computer ownership levels have stayed roughly where they were a decade ago, except for users under 30 years of age, who have been abandoning laptops and desktop machines at a noticeable pace. Some 78 percent of those younger Americans are still using such devices in 2015, compared to 88 percent who used them in 2010, according to the report.

"These changes are all taking place in a world where smartphones are transforming into all-purpose devices that can take the place of specialized technology, such as music players, ebook readers and gaming devices," the report said.

About 92 percent of adult Americans have a mobile phone of some kind, including smartphones and simpler basic phones, compared with 65 percent in 2004, when Pew did its first research on the subject.

A researcher for Pew could not be reached immediately by eWEEK on Nov. 2 to discuss the report.

The analysis in the Pew report is based on about 1,907 telephone interviews conducted with adults 18 and over from March to April and June to July in the United States, according to the group. About 1,612 of the respondents are Internet users and the margin of sampling error for the results is plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

Some 70 percent of adult men in the country use smartphones, while 66 percent of adult women also are users, the data concluded. Smartphone use by Americans 65 years old and older is about 30 percent based on the survey, while some 58 percent of users from 50 to 64 years old are smartphone owners.

For households with incomes less than $30,000 per year, the smartphone ownership rate is 52 percent, while it rises to 69 percent for households with an income of $30,000 to $49,999. The rate is 76 percent for households with an income of $50,000 to $74,999.

Tablet ownership in the U.S. has risen tenfold since 2010, according to Pew, when 4 percent of adults owned them, the data shows.

"Younger adults and those from more affluent backgrounds are more likely to own the devices, and differences tied to educational attainment are particularly pronounced," with 62 percent of college graduates having tablets, compared with 35 percent of users with a high school diploma.

College graduates and those from higher-income households are particularly likely to own a computer. There are also differences based on age as well as race and ethnicity, with younger groups more likely than their older counterparts to report owning a laptop or desktop, and whites (79 percent) more likely than Hispanics (63 percent) and blacks (45 percent) to own one.

A Pew report on U.S. smartphone use in April found some other interesting data, including that about 7 percent of U.S. smartphone owners use their phones for all of their Web access, including 18 percent who have used them to apply for a job, according to an earlier eWEEK story.