April 17, 2012, 2:57 PM

Smartphone owners are not birds of a feather

There are significant differences in age and household income, Pew finds.

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As of February 2012, 88% of U.S. adults owned a mobile phone, up from 85% in September 2010; 57% owned a laptop, up from 52%; 19% owned an e-book reader, up from 5%; and 19% owned a tablet computer, up from 4%, according to “Digital Differences,” a new study of 2,260 U.S. adults from the Pew Research Center. 63% of those consumers go online wirelessly with one of those devices.

The report studies the demographic differences of mobile device ownership, which retailers can examine to compare to the demographics of their own mobile customers. 49% of U.S. adult men in February 2012 owned a smartphone, up from 39% in May 2011, Pew finds. 44% of women were smartphone users in February 2012, compared with 31% in May 2011.

Numbers are jumping by race, too. The figures for February 2012 versus May 2011 for whites are 45% and 30%, for blacks 49% and 44%, and for Hispanics 49% and 44%.

The differences in the percentages for smartphone ownership by age are stark. 66% of U.S. adults age 19-29 owned a smartphone in February 2012 compared with 52% in May 2011, Pew finds. 59% age 30-49 used a smartphone in February 2012 compared with 45% in May 2011. 34% age 50-64 owned a smartphone in February 2012 compared with 24% in May 2011. And 13% age 65 and older used a smartphone in February 2012 compared with 11% in May 2012.

There is also a significant difference in smartphone ownership when it comes to household income. 34% of U.S. adults in a household with less than $30,000 in annual income owned a smartphone in February 2012, up from 22% in May 2011, Pew says. 46% in a household with an annual income between $30,000 and $49,000 owned a smartphone, up from 40% in May 2011. 49% in a household with an annual income between $50,000 and $74,000 owned a smartphone in February 2012, up from 38%. And 68% in a household with an annual income of $75,000 or more owned a smartphone in February 2012, up from 59% in May 2011.

“The rise of mobile is changing the story,” the “Digital Differences” report says. “Groups that have traditionally been on the other side of the digital divide in basic Internet access are using wireless connections to go online. Among smartphone owners, young adults, minorities and those with lower household income levels are more likely than other groups to say that their phone is their main source of Internet access.”

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