Here’s What Tech Device Ownership Looks Like in US Households

August 4, 2017

Smartphones are almost omni-present in US households, reveals Nielsen in a recent report [download page]. Indeed, 97% of Gen Z (2-20) and Millennials (21-37) live in households with a smartphone, as do 95% of Gen Xers and 86% of Baby Boomers. There’s relative parity in household ownership of these devices across generations, though others show more disparities.

Along with smartphones, upwards of 80% of adults across generations live in homes with broadband internet and PCs, per the report.

As relates to broadband, recent data suggests that the broadband subscriber market is now as large as the pay-TV subscriber market.

Meanwhile, access to DVRs also appears relatively consistent across generations, ranging from a low of 51% of Millennials to a high of 60% of Gen Xers.

Interesting Tech Comparisons

Looking through the results, some interesting ownership findings stand out:

  • Gen Z, along with Millennials and Gen Xers, are each more likely to live in households with a subscription video-on-demand service than with a DVR, though that isn’t true for Baby Boomers;
  • Millennials are the only generation that are considerably more likely to live in a home with a multimedia device than an enabled smart TV, with ownership of those devices otherwise very similar for other generations;
  • Members of Gen Z live in households that are almost as likely to own a tablet (78%) as a PC (82%);
  • While they lag other generations, a majority of Baby Boomers live in households with a subscription-video-on-demand (SVOD) service; and
  • Millennials are the only generation more likely to live in a household with a SVOD service than with a DVD player.

Nielsen notes that Gen Z “benefits from the technological choices of other householders,” perhaps explaining the high rates of access across devices.

Device Ownership Trends

On a year-over-year basis, tech device ownership patterns appear to be moving in lockstep – at least generally speaking – across generations.

Those general trends include:

  • Large increases (>20%, close to 30%) across generations in household ownership of multimedia devices and enabled smart TVs;
  • Modest declines (<10%) in ownership of DVDs;
  • Low double-digit increases in SVOD penetration; and
  • Relatively flat penetration of broadband internet, PCs and smartphones, with the exception of Baby Boomers’ increase for the latter.

Recent data from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) reveals that the top 5 devices by penetration in US households are: TVs; Smartphones; DVDs / Blu-ray players; Wired headphones and earbuds; and Notebooks, laptops, or netbooks.

The full Nielsen study is available for download here.


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