According to a series of surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, summarized by Aaron Smith, 64% of American adults now own a smartphone of some kind, up from 35% in the spring of 2011. Smartphone ownership is especially high among younger Americans, as well as those with relatively high income and education levels.
10% of Americans own a smartphone but do not have broadband at home, and 15% own a smartphone but say that they have a limited number of options for going online other than their cell phone, says the report. Those with relatively low income and educational attainment levels, younger adults, and non-whites are especially likely to be “smartphone-dependent.” Lower-income and “smartphone-dependent” users are especially likely to turn to their phones for navigating job and employment resources.
7% of Americans own a smartphone but have neither traditional broadband service at home, nor easily available alternatives for going online other than their cell phone. The report documents the unique circumstances of this “smartphone-dependent” population, and also explores the ways in which smartphone owners use their phones to engage in a wide range of activities.
For a number of Americans, smartphones serve as an essential connection to the broader world of online information. The survey measured reliance on smartphones for online access by asking smartphone owners whether or not they have traditional broadband service at home, and whether they have a reasonable number of options for accessing the internet in general from any location.
The Smartphone Dependent Population:
Certain groups of Americans rely on smartphones for online access at elevated levels, in particular:
Compared with smartphone owners who are less reliant on their mobile devices, these smartphone-dependent users are less likely to own some other type of computing device, less likely to have a bank account, less likely to be covered by health insurance, and more likely to rent or to live with a friend or family member rather than own their own home.
The connections to online resources that smartphones facilitate are often most tenuous for those users who rely on those connections the most.
Smartphone Ownership Tenuous For Those Most Reliant
Other Smartphone Owners
Had to cancel or suspend service for financial reasons
Frequently/occasionally reach max data allowed on plan
Pew Research, October 2014
Even as a substantial minority of Americans indicate that their phone plays a central role in their ability to access digital services and online content, for many users this access is often intermittent due to a combination of financial stresses and technical constraints.
48% of smartphone-dependent Americans have had to cancel or shut off their cell phone service for a period of time because the cost of maintaining that service was a financial hardship. In addition, 30% of smartphone-dependent Americans say that they “frequently” reach the maximum amount of data that they are allowed to consume as part of their cell phone plan, and 51% say that this happens to them at least occasionally. Each of these figures is substantially higher than those reported by smartphone owners with more access options at their disposal.
Smartphone owners of all kinds use their phone to help navigate numerous important life events; lower income and “smartphone-dependent” users are especially likely to use their phone for job and employment resources
Smartphone Owner Significant Uses (% owners using phone)
% Using Previous Year
Get info about health condition
Do online banking
Access real estate listings/info for residence
Look up job information
Look up government services
Take class or get educational content
Submit job application
Pew Research, October 2014
Smartphones are used for much more than calling, texting, or basic internet browsing. Users are turning to these mobile devices as they navigate a wide range of life events, says the report:
Lower-income smartphone owners are especially likely to use their phone during a job search. Compared with smartphone owners from households earning $75,000 or more per year, those from households earning less than $30,000 annually are nearly twice as likely to use a smartphone to look for information about a job, and more than four times as likely to use their phone to actually submit a job application.
Similarly, “smartphone-dependent” users are much more likely to use their smartphones to access career opportunities. 63% of these smartphone-dependent users have gotten job information on their phone in the last year, and 39% have used their phone to submit a job application.
Young adults (85% of whom are smartphone owners) are also incorporating their mobile devices into a host of information seeking and transactional behaviors. About three-quarters of 18-29 year old smartphone owners have used their phone in the last year to get information about a health condition; about seven-in-ten have used their phone to do online banking or to look up information about job; 44% have consumed educational content on their phone; and 34% have used their phone to apply for a job.
A substantial majority of smartphone owners use their phone to follow along with news events near and far, and to share details of local happenings with others:
Each of these behaviors is common across a diverse group of smartphone owners. Mobile news consumption is common even among older smartphone owners, who tend to use these devices for more basic activities. Four-in-ten smartphone owners ages 65 and older use their phone at least occasionally to keep up with breaking news, half use it to share information about local happenings, and one-third use it to stay abreast of events and activities in their community.
Smartphones also play an important role in helping their owners navigate their environment and get where they need to go, especially as a mobile GPS for real-time driving directions:
Each of these behaviors is especially prevalent among younger smartphone owners: for instance, 17% of smartphone owners ages 18-29 use their phone to reserve a taxi or car service at least occasionally. Additionally, African American and Latino smartphone owners look up public transit information on their phones at higher rates than whites (37% of black smartphone owners, 30% of Latinos, and 21% of whites do this at least on occasion).
Users view smartphones as freeing, connecting, helpful, and usually worth the cost, but not always essential
Basic findings on smartphone ownership and demographics within the U.S. adult population are based on data from three different sources, each of which is discussed in considerably more detail in the full report.
The first section of Chapter One is based on telephone surveys conducted among 2,002 adults. Findings about how smartphone owners use their phones (the remainder of Chapter One, and Chapter Two) are drawn from the October wave of the American Trends Panel Data about how smartphone owners use their phones over the course of one week (Chapter 3) is taken from the American Trends Panel “experience sampling” survey.
Please visit here to review the complete details of the study from the Pew Research Center.