US Smartphone Ownership Heavily Linked to Income Level and Age

nielsen-smartphone_income-and-age1.jpgSmartphone penetration is closely linked to income and age levels, according to survey results released in February 2012 by Nielsen. Increased levels of smartphone penetration correlated with higher income levels among all age groups studied, with the greatest disparity between those making over $100k per year and those under $15k per year seen among those aged over 45, and the least amount of disparity for those between the ages of 18 and 24.

For example, Americans aged 45-54 making over $100k per year are 3.3 times more likely than those making under $15k per year to own a smartphone (60% vs. 16%), while in the 55-64 age group, they are 3 times more likely (48% vs. 16%). By contrast, those aged 18-24 and making more than $100k per year are only 37.5% more likely than their lower-income-earning counterparts to own a smartphone (77% vs. 56%).

Ownership Skews Young

The Nielsen data indicates that Americans aged 25-34 have the highest levels of smartphone ownership, with two-thirds saying they own a smartphone. The 18-24 age group follows relatively closely, at 62%, ahead of those aged 35-44 (58%). After that, there is a significant drop-off to the older age groups, with less than half of adults aged 45-54, and only one-third of those 55-64 owning a smartphone. Just 22% of Americans over 65 report owning a smartphone.

Similar patterns hold among those who had acquired a new device in the past 3 months. 80% of the 18-24 and 25-34 age groups who had acquired a new device chose a smartphone, followed by those aged 35-44 (74%), 45-54 (65%), and 55-64 (56%). Although smartphone penetration is low among those over 65, 43% of that group who had acquired a new device in the past 3 months chose a smartphone.

Overall, Nielsen found smartphone penetration to stand at 48% in January. Google results released in January found lower penetration of smartphones in the US, but that consumers are increasingly shifting from feature phones to smartphones. According to the report, 38% of US consumers responding to Phase 2 of Google’s survey, conducted in September and October 2011, reported ownership of a smartphone, up 22.5% from 31% of respondents to Phase 1 of the survey, conducted in January and February 2011. By contrast, during that time period, the proportion reporting ownership of a feature phone dropped 17% from 47% to 39%.

Income Plays Significant Role

Meanwhile, according to Nielsen, although age is an important determinant of smartphone ownership, the influence of a consumer’s income level is not to be underestimated. For example, Americans aged 55-64 making over $100k per year are more likely to own a smartphone than those aged 25-34 making less than $15k per year (48% vs. 43%), and almost as likely as 18-24-year-olds making $15-35k per year (48% vs. 53%). Indeed, consumers older than 65 with over $100k per year in income are more likely than those aged 45-54 making less than $50k per year to own a smartphone.

About the Data: The Nielsen results are based on a January survey of more than 20,000 mobile consumers.

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