Mobile Internet Access Grows Across Age Groups

March 31, 2015

comScore-Internet-Access-by-Platform-and-Age-Group-Mar2015Some 21% of online US adults aged 18-34 accessed the internet using only mobile devices in December 2014, up from 18% doing so last year, according to a recently-released report [download page] from comScore. The study also demonstrates that multi-platform use is growing across age groups, with three-quarters of online Americans aged 55 and older accessing the internet either through mobiles only (6%) or through a combination of mobiles and desktops (68%).

Indeed, just 26% of online adults aged 55 and older accessed the internet solely via desktops in December of last year, down from 40% during the year-earlier period. As such, this age group counts as the fastest-growing cohort of mobile users.

Overall, 88% of online adults counted as mobile-only (12%) or multi-platform (76%) users in December. Given that a recent Pew Research Project study [pdf] found that 81% of US adults access the internet, the data – in combination – suggests that somewhere around 7 in 10 American adults are accessing the internet via mobile devices. (For context, recent comScore data showed that smartphone penetration reached three-quarters of the 13+ mobile subscriber market in Q4 2014.)

Not surprisingly, digital content consumption varies widely by category, per the report. Some categories that continue to lean strongly towards desktop consumption include business/finance (70% of time spent coming from desktops) and entertainment news (61% desktop). By contrast, social networking skews heavily towards mobile (74% share of time spent), as do the online gaming and weather (each at 87%) categories. Retail was fairly evenly split between mobile (49% of consumption) and desktop (51%) platforms in December, per the report.

It’s worth noting that those figures are likely subject to some seasonality. In January 2014, for example, desktop played a less prominent role in both retail (47% of time) and business/finance content consumption (62%), according to previously-released comScore data. That would suggest that desktop share of consumption in these categories grew over the course of the year, which would run counter to the prevailing winds of mobile’s growth.

Nevertheless, the latest report offers an interesting – and somewhat related – nugget: time spent with mobile devices hasn’t cannibalized desktop consumption over the past few years, at least in the aggregate. Between December 2010 and December 2014, time spent online via tablets grew by 1,721%, while time spent accessing the internet via smartphones increased by 394%. But, there was also modest growth in time spent accessing via desktops, of 37%. In essence, then, all that time spent accessing the internet through mobile devices has proved to be accretive.

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