57% of Americans Go Online With Cell Phone

According to a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 63% of cell phone owners now go online using their mobile phones, an eight-point increase from the cell owners who did so at a similar point in 2012, and a two-fold increase over those who did so in 2009. Pew calls these individuals “cell internet users,” and they include anyone who uses the internet on their cell phone (60% of cell owners do this), or uses email on their cell phone (52% of cell owners do this).

Taken together, 63% of cell owners do one or both of these things, says the report, and are classified as cell internet users. Since 91% of Americans are cell phone owners, this means that 57% of all Americans now go online using a mobile phone. The steady increase in cell phone internet usage follows a similar growth trajectory for smartphone ownership. Over half of all adults (56%) now own a smartphone, and 93% of these smartphone owners use their phone to go online.

Almost Two-Thirds Of Cell Owners Go Online Using Their Phones (Among cell phone owners, the % who use the internet or email on their phone)




Total Cell/Internet

Apr 2009




May 2010




May 2011




Apr 2012








Source:  Pew Internet & American Life, September 2013

In particular, says the report, the following groups have high levels of cell phone internet use:

  • Young adults: Cell owners ages 18-29 are the most likely of any demographic group to use their phones to go online. 85% of them do so, compared with 73% of cell owners ages 30-49, and 51% of those ages 50-64. Just 22% of cell owners ages 65 and older go online from their phones, making seniors the least likely demographic group to go online from a cell phone
  • Non-whites: 74% of African-American cell phone owners are cell internet users, as are 68% of Hispanic cell owners
  • The college-educated: 74% of cell owners with a college degree or higher are cell internet users, along with 67% of those who have attended (but not graduated) college
  • The financially well-off: 74% of cell phone owners living in households with an annual income of $75,000 or more per year are significantly more likely than those in every other income category to go online using their phones
  • Urban and suburban residents: Urban and suburban cell owners are significantly more likely to be cell internet users than those living in rural areas. 66% of urbanites and 65% of suburban-dwellers do so, compared to half of rural residents

The prevalence of cell phone internet usage increased across a number of demographic groups since April 2012. This includes men and women, whites and African-Americans, the college-educated, and those in the highest-income households. Notably, cell owners between the ages of 50 and 64 experienced a larger-than-average 15 percentage point increase in the past year. 51% of cell owners ages 50-64 now use their phone to go online, up from 36% who did so in the spring of 2012.

Considering which device the respondents use most often to access the internet, 34% of cell internet users say that they mostly use their cell phone rather than some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer. 53% of cell internet users say that they mostly go online from a device other than their cell phone, while 11% say that they use both their phone and some other device(s) equally. The “cell-mostly internet user” group represents 21% of the entire cell phone owner population.

Mobile Internet Access Points (% of cell internet users vs. all cell owners who say they “mostly” access the internet on their phone)


% of cell internet users

% of all cell phone owners

Go online mostly using cell phone



Go online mostly using some other device



Use cell phone and some other device equally to go online



Do not go online using a cell phone



Source:  Pew Internet & American Life, September 2013

The Pew Research Center has been tracking the “cell mostly internet user” phenomenon since 2011, and over that time adults, non-whites, the less educated, and the less affluent have said that they go online mostly using their cell phone at consistently high rates. This remains true in 2013:

  • Non-whites: Among those who use their phone to go online, six in ten Hispanics and 43% of African-Americans are cell-mostly internet users, compared with 27% of whites
  • Young adults: Half of cell internet users ages 18-29 mostly use their cell phone to go online
  • The less-educated: 45% of cell internet users with a high school diploma or less mostly use their phone to go online, compared with 21% of those with a college degree
  • The less-affluent: 45% of cell internet users living in households with an annual income of less than $30,000 mostly use their phone to go online, compared with 27% of those living in households with an annual income of $75,000 or more

For additional information from Pew Research, please visit here.



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