June 10, 2013, 1:21 PM

34% of U.S. adults own tablets and 56% own smartphones

Pew Research Center and the U.S. Census Bureau release mobile device studies.

34% of U.S. adults own a tablet computer, up from 3% in May 2010, a month after the release of Apple Inc.’s iPad, 8% in May 2011, and 18% in May 2012, according to the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.

Demographic groups most likely to own tablets, Pew finds, include:

  • Those living in households earning at least $75,000 per year—56% of adults living in these households own a tablet.
  • Adults ages 35-44—49% of these consumers own a tablet.
  • College graduates—49% of these adults own a tablet.

Looking at the smaller mobile screen, 56% of U.S. adults own a smartphone, 35% a mobile phone that is not a smartphone (typically feature phones that do not use advanced mobile operating systems capable of running apps), and 9% do not own a mobile phone, Pew says. 61% of mobile phone owners use a smartphone, Pew adds.

As has consistently been the case since Pew began measuring smartphone adoption two years ago, ownership is particularly high among younger adults, especially those in their twenties and thirties (although a majority of Americans in their mid-forties through mid-fifties now own smartphones) and those with relatively high levels of household income and education, Pew says. Every major demographic group experienced significant year-over-year growth in smartphone ownership between 2012 and 2013, although seniors—defined as those 65 and older—remain far less likely to own a smartphone than other demographic groups, Pew says. Some 18% of Americans age 65 and older now own a smartphone, compared with 13% in February 2012.

78% of U.S. adults with annual household income of $75,000 or more own a smartphone, 61% $50,000 to $74,999, 52% $30,000 to $49,999, and 43% less than $30,000 a year, Pew says. 59% of U.S. adults who live in urban areas own a smartphone, 59% suburban and 40% rural.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau has released smartphone data of its own, showing that while disparities in Internet use persist among racial and ethnic groups, smartphones appear to be helping to bridge the digital divide.

“Going online is no longer a simple yes or no proposition,” says Thom File, a sociologist with the Census Bureau. “Different groups of people are accessing the Internet in very different ways, and these statistics give us a better understanding of how and where those connections are taking place.”

According to the bureau’s research on data collected in 2011, a gap of 27.1 percentage points exists between groups with the highest and lowest reported rates of home Internet use. Asians reported the highest use at 78.3 percent and Hispanics the lowest at 51.2 percent. However, the gap narrows to 17.5 percentage points when smartphone use is factored into overall rates of Internet use, the bureau says. With smartphones factored in, 83.0 percent of Asians and 65.5 percent of Hispanics reported going online.

In terms of smartphone usage on its own, 51.6 percent of Asian respondents reported using a smartphone, the Census Bureau says. About 48.0 percent of both white non-Hispanics and blacks reported smartphone use, and 45.4 percent of Hispanics said they used smartphones. Overall, 48.2 percent of individuals 15 and older reported using a smartphone in 2011.

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