Smartphone, Tablet and PC Penetration, by Demographic

February 1, 2017

More American adults have access to a smartphone than to a PC, as access to these devices moves in opposite directions, according to a recent Nielsen report [download page]. The study indicates that in Q3 2016, 87% of US adults had access to a smartphone (up from 80% during the year-earlier period), while 80% had access to a PC (down from 84%).

Meanwhile, some 65% of adults in Q3 had access to a tablet, up from 58% during the year-earlier period.

The study breaks down device penetration by demographic group, with some highlights following:

  • Millennials (18-34) lead all age groups in smartphone penetration (97%), though Gen Xers (35-49) are tops in PC (85%) and tablet (74%) access;
  • The 50+ bracket sported the fastest year-over-year growth (in relative terms) in tablet (+16%) and smartphone (+12%) access;
  • Adult men and women have equal levels of PC access (82% each), while women lead slightly in tablet (66% vs. 64%) and smartphone (88% vs. 86%) penetration;
  • African-Americans have the lowest levels of PC (71%) and tablet (61%) penetrations when sorting by race/ethnicity, with Asian-Americans leading on both counts (91% and 78%, respectively); while
  • Asian-Americans (95%) and African-Americans (93%) have the broadest access to smartphones, with Whites having the lowest (86%).

Separately, new data from The Diffusion Group (TDG) indicates that internet-connected TV penetration at the end of last year grew to almost three-quarters (74%) of broadband households. While that wasn’t much of an increase from 2015 (70%), it did mark a sizable jump from 2013, when just half of broadband households had an internet-connected TV.

Connected TVs offer the possibility of watching video without a cord – and recent figures from GfK indicate that a sizable 30% of all US Millennials (18-34) are cordless (lacking cable, satellite or fiber optic TV service). As such, Millennials account for 43% of the total “cordless” population. This segment of the population spends about two-thirds of its video viewing time streaming via a TV set or other device, almost double the share of time (36%) spent by cordless Boomers, who spend the majority of their video time watching live TV on a TV set over the airwaves.


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