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Just about one year ago, research showed that the majority of time spent with digital media each month was done on smartphone apps. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering a new report from Pew Research Institute revealing that 8 in 10 US (81%) of US adults own a smartphone which is even more than those who have home broadband.

Pew surveyed more than 1,500 US adults and found that smartphone ownership has risen (up 5% from last year’s 77%), albeit slower than it did nine years ago, but some age groups have almost reached total penetration. Indeed, 96% of 18-29-year-olds and 92% of 30-40-year-olds now report owning a smartphone.

Last year, Deloitte reported that smartphone ownership among US adults 55 years and older had risen from 67% to 77%. Pew’s research breaks down that age group in a bit more detail, and confirms that the older generations are somewhat slower than the younger generations to become smartphone owners. The age group of 50-64 year-olds is just below the average at 79%, while just more than half (53%) of US adults 65 years and older own a smartphone, but that does drop to a 40% share for those 75 years and older.

While there is little difference in ownership when it comes to ethnicity (White at 82%, Black at 80%, Hispanic at 79%), smartphone ownership fluctuates more depending on education level and income. Nine in 10 (91%) adults with at least a college education own a smartphone, while 7 in 10 (71%) of adults with a high school or less education can say the same. Meanwhile, 71% of US adults with an income of less than $30K say they have a smartphone compared to the 95% of individuals making at least $75K.

Smartphone Only Internet Users

Earlier Pew research found that a small percentage (10%) of Americans do not use the internet. While around one-quarter (27%) of Americans lack a home broadband connection, there is also about one-fifth (17%) of US adults who do not have a high-speed internet connection at home, yet own a smartphone. Some 22% of these smartphone-only internet users are between the ages of 18-29 years old. One-quarter (25%) are Hispanic, while 26% have a high school education or less and 26% have an annual income of $30K or less.

It turns out that even when given an option on how they can access the internet, some 46% of smartphone owners (versus 37% of all Americans, as covered in a previous examination of the data) say they mostly go online using their phone. Only 3 in 10 (30% share) say they mostly go online using another device such as a computer or tablet.

The percentage of individuals who go online mostly using their smartphone varies with age. Three in 5 (61% share) of 18-29-year-olds say they prefer to go online using their smartphone as do about half (51% share) of 30-49-year-olds. However, the numbers decrease considerably with 50-64-year-olds (34% share) and 65 and overs (28% share). Those age groups much more prefer to use a computer or tablet to access the internet.

About the Data: The report is based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 8-Feb. 7, 2019, among a national sample of 1,502 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

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