Americans are spending a lot of time on their mobile phones, with research showing that in 2020, people in the US spent about 8 in 10 of their digital minutes on their mobile. It’s no wonder, considering that data from Pew Research Institute reveals that a full 85% of US adults own a smartphone — more than say they have broadband at home.
The survey of more than 1,500 US adults also shows that smartphone ownership has increased by 4 percentage points over 2019, when 81% owned a smartphone.
Younger adults have maintained near-universal levels of ownership, with 96% of 18-29-year-olds owning a smartphone. This percentage has not changed from 2019; however, smartphone ownership among adults ages 30-49 has increased from 92% in 2019 to 95% this year.
Pre-pandemic research from AARP showed that smartphone adoption among older adults was on the rise. This can be seen in Pew’s research, which found that 83% of adults ages 50-64 own a smartphone — just below the average, but up from 79% in 2019. Adults 65 years and older remain well below the average in smartphone ownership but have grown markedly from 2019 (53%) to 2021 (61%).
Although there is very little difference in ownership when it comes to ethnicity (White at 85%, Black at 83%, Hispanic at 85%), there has been a notable lift in ownership among Hispanic adults over 2019, when 79% reported owning a smartphone.
Education and household income seem to play a factor in smartphone ownership. Some 93% of those with at least a college degree and 90% with some college education own a smartphone, compared to 75% with a high school education or less (up from 71% in 2019). Likewise, 76% of US adults with a household income (HHI) of less than $30K say they have a smartphone versus 96% of individuals with an HHI of at least $75K.
Smartphone-Only Internet Users
While other research from Pew found that about 3 in 10 US adults are always online, there are another 7% who say they never go online. And, just as the share of Americans who do not have a home broadband connection has shrunk slightly since 2019 (23% vs 27%), so has the share who say they don’t have a high-speed internet connection at home, yet own a smartphone (15% vs. 17%).
Some 28% of adults between the ages of 18-29 years old (up from 22% in 2019) are dependent on smartphones for access to the internet. One-quarter of Hispanic adults are likewise “smartphone-dependent”, as are 23% of adults with a high school education or less and 27% with household income of $30K or less.
Although non-broadband users cite a number of reasons why they do not have broadband at home, including costs, lack of available service and having other options for internet access outside the home, some 45% say that their smartphone does everything they need. Indeed, 1 in 5 (19%) say it is the most important reason for not having broadband.
About the Data: The findings are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 5-Feb. 8, 2021, 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.