US Smartphone Ownership Heavily Linked to Income Level and Age

by MarketingCharts staff

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.