News for Digital Journalists

July 11, 2011

Smartphones: Who’s getting them, how are they using them? Pew report

Here’s one more reason for news organizations to focus on their mobile web sites: according to a new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, one fourth of U.S. smartphone owners use their phone for most of their online browsing…

On smartphones, users can often access similar content via a publisher’s web site and via platform-specific apps. However, the Pew report did not refer to apps as a channel for “online browsing,” so that statistic probably refers just to mobile web access via smartphones, not app use.

Pew also estimated that 35% of US adults currently own a smartphone—similar to comScore’s latest estimate that 33% of Americans 13 and over own a smartphone.

Pew also noted that 83% of US adults own a cell phone of any kind—which means that simpler, cheaper feature phones still are the most popular type of mobile device, used by about half of U.S. adults.

Other highlights from Pew’s smartphone report:

  • Affluence. 59% of U.S. adults from households earning $75,000/year or more own smartphones; but only 22% of people with household annual income under $30,000 own smartphones.
  • Education. 48% of U.S. adults with a college degree own smartphones, compared to 18% of people with no high school diploma.
  • Gender. 39% of smartphone owners are male; 31% female.
  • Age. “Smartphone ownership is highest among Americans in their mid-twenties through mid-thirties, as fully 58% of 25-34 year olds own a smartphone.”
  • Ethnicity. 44% each of African Americans and Latinos own smartphones; compared to only 30% of whites.


Pew offered more insight on mobile internet access:

“Even among smartphone owners who use their phone as their main source of internet access, computer (i.e. laptop or desktop) ownership is quite prevalent. Indeed, fully 84% of these individuals also have a desktop or laptop computer at home.

“At the same time, a notably smaller number have access to high-speed internet service, as just over two-thirds of these users (68%) have broadband at home. This is slightly above the national broadband average (61% of all adults are broadband adopters), but still means that 32% of these ‘cell mostly’ internet users lack traditional high-speed home access—even though they may go online from other locations outside of the home.

“...Usage of smartphones as a primary internet access device is highest among several groups with relatively low rates of traditional internet and broadband adoption—for example, those with no college experience as well as those with relatively low income levels.”

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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