Desktops and Laptops Trail Cell Phones in Popularity

According to a recent report by the Pew Research Center, Generations and Their Gadgets, younger adults are leading the way in increased mobility, preferring laptops to desktops and using their cell phones for a variety of functions, including internet, email, music, games, and video. Cell phones are by far the most popular device among American adults, with 85% of adults owning cell phones, and 90% of all adults live in a household with at least one working cell phone.

Cell Phone Household Ownership

 

Millennials

Gen X

Younger Boomers

Older Boomers

Silent Gen.

G.I. Gen.

All adults

% of adults who have a cell phone

95%

92

86

84

68

48

85

% of non-cell users who live in a household with a working cell phone

49

51

29

42

24

27

33

Total % of adults who live in a household with a working cell phone

97

96

90

90

76

62

90

Source: Pew Research Center, February 2011

Though cell phones are now ubiquitous in American homes, the level of engagement with the phones does vary widely between generations. The survey found that while roughly the same proportion of adults in the Millennial generation and Generation X own cell phones, Millennials are significantly more likely to use their phones for a variety of purposes. A majority of Millennials use their phones for taking photos, texting, going online, sending email, playing games, listening to music, and recording videos-making them significantly more likely than any other generation to engage in all of these activities.

To clarify the generations by age grouping, the following chart is effective:

Generation

Birth Years

Age in 2011

Millennials

Born 1977-1993

Ages 18-34

Gen X

Born 1965-1976

Ages 35-46

Younger Boomers

Born 1955-1964

Ages 47-56

Older Boomers

Born 1946-1954

Ages 57-65

Silent Generation

Born 1937-1945

Ages 66-74

G.I. Generation

Born before 1936

Age 75+

Source: Pew Research Center, February 2011

Desktop computers are most popular with adults ages 35-65, and Millennials are the only generation that is more likely to own a laptop computer or netbook than a desktop.

Almost half of adults own an iPod or other mp3 player. However, among the devices examined in this report, mp3 players saw the widest range in ownership rates between generations. While 74% of Millennials own an mp3 player, only 56% of members of Gen X do, and adoption rates continue to drop for each of the older generations.

Overall, 42% percent of all adults age 18 and older own a game console, and it is especially popular with members of the Millennial Generation and Generation X. Sixty-three percent of all adults ages 18-46 own a game console like an Xbox or Play Station. Overall, 5% of adults own an e-book reader, and 4% own an iPad or other tablet computer.

Tech Device Ownership By Generational Group (% Cell Phone Users)

 

% Ownership

Device

Millennials

GenX

Younger Boomers

Older Boomers

Silent Generation

GI Generation

All Adults

Cell phone

95%

92

86

84

68

48

85

Desktop computer

57

69

65

64

48

28

59

Laptop computer

70

61

49

43

30

10

52

iPod/MP3

74

56

42

26

16

3

47

Game console

63

63

38

19

8

3

42

eBook reader

5

5

7

3

6

2

5

Tablet

5

5

4

3

1

1

4

None of these

1

3

8

8

20

43

9

Source: Pew Research Center, February 2011

The youngest generation does not lead in all the gadgets studied. Gen X is also very similar to Millennials in ownership of certain devices, such as game consoles, and members of Gen X are also more likely than Millennials to own a desktop computer.

In terms of generations, Millennials are by far the most likely group not only to own most of the devices studied, but also to take advantage of a wider range of functions. Most cell phone owners only use two of the main non-voice functions on their phones: taking pictures and text messaging.  Among Millennials, meanwhile, a majority use their phones also for going online, sending email, playing games, listening to music, and recording videos.

Taking pictures is the most popular function on Americans' phones, with more than half of all cell phone owners under the age of 75 using their phones for this purpose (only 16% of adults age 75 and older take photos with their phones). Text messaging, though also widely adopted, is less popular with adults over age 56

Cell Phone Use (% Of Cell Phone Users)

 

Millennials

Gen X

Younger Boomers

Older Boomers

Silent Gen

G.I. Gen

All adults

Take a picture

91%

83

78

60

50

16

76

Send or receive text messages

94

83

68

49

27

9

72

Access the internet

63

42

25

15

17

2

38

Play a game

57

37

25

11

10

7

34

Record a video

57

39

23

11

7

4

34

Send or receive email

52

35

26

22

14

7

34

Play music

61

36

18

10

7

5

33

Send or receive instant messages

46

35

22

15

13

6

30

Source: Pew Research Center, February 2011

These findings are based on a survey of 3,001 American adults (ages 18 and older) conducted between August 9 and September 13, 2010. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.

To learn more about the report, and to access the PDF file, please visit PEW here.

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1 comment about "Desktops and Laptops Trail Cell Phones in Popularity".
  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , February 15, 2011 at 9:23 a.m.

    The G.I. generation needs to be broken out more. There are opportunities to reach many of this generation who could gain momentum with the tech gadgets they are so unfamiliar with and downright unsure of their usefulness. Many in this demographic are nursing homes, lost their ability to remember and more and are in finacial straits. Other people have found the Jitterbug phone. How many people who cannot leave their homes would greatly benefit from an easy computer with large type to be able to find things they need and order them on line? This includes food, medicine, books, easy games and ability to communicate with other people. This is a growing population in case anyone forgot. There is a lot of potential in the span of older boomers and G.I.'s for a smart marketer.