The portrait of the tech-obsessed college student may have some grounding in reality. According to the latest College Explorer study from re:fuel, the average 18-34-year-old college student owns 7 tech devices (6.9 to be precise), up from 6.4 last year. The laptop computer is the most commonly owned device, by 85% of the college student population, with smartphone penetration nearing 70% and tablets (36%) more widespread than cell phones (33%). Video game consoles are also popular, owned by roughly two-thirds of the representative sample of college students.
Given high penetration rates of smartphones and tablets, it’s understandable that devices such as the handheld game system (35%), camcorder/video recorder (25%) and e-reader (21%) have are relatively unpopular among college students. Indeed, the study shows that as smartphone and tablet penetration rates have risen, the digital camera has seen a drop-off in adoption. MP3s, while still in use by about two-thirds of college students, have also fallen out of favor, while the pace of laptop ownership growth has stalled.
Smartphone and tablet ownership should continue to rise: a leading 31% of respondents plan to buy a smartphone in the next year, with tablets (22%) third on the list behind laptops (25%).
Students are engaging with a number of different applications on their smartphones and tablets. More than 6 in 10 claim to regularly use games (73%), music (67%), entertainment (64%) and social networking (64%) apps, with a majority also putting photo and video (53%) apps to use. Interestingly, productivity apps are on the low end of the totem pole, with less than 1 in 5 saying they regularly use them.
Using those apps takes time, and college students are spending more of it with their devices. On average, they report spending 0.8 hours with a tablet, up from half-an-hour last year. And they’re spending 3.6 hours a day with their cell phones and smartphones (presumably more on smartphones), up from 3.3 hours last year. By contrast, they’re spending less time with computers, TVs, handheld gaming devices, and e-readers.
About the Data: The 2013 re:fuel College Explorer was fielded by Crux Research online
in January – February 2013. The study gathered the opinions of 1,528 college students between the ages of 18-34. Respondents are current college students who take at least one course on a physical campus (i.e. are not pursuing online education exclusively).
The sample is drawn primarily from a leading online panel which includes millions of cooperative respondents. Potential respondents are drawn at random within targeted age and gender quotas from the panel. Respondents included 1,122 full-time/394 part-time students; 426 2-year
students/899 4-year students/191 working towards a graduate degree; 1,117 college students aged 18-24 and 399 college students aged 25-34.
Data points in the report, unless otherwise noted, are representative of U.S. college students ages 18-34. With probability samples of this size, one can say with 95% certainty that the overall results have a sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points of what they would be if the entire U.S. college student population had been polled. This online sample is not a probability sample.
Quota targets are set using information from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). NCES populations for types of students (full-time/part-time, 2-year/4-year, undergraduate/graduate), as well as demographic information from the U.S. census, are used as weighting targets.