September 8, 2011, 12:41 PM

Younger consumers, not the middle-aged, are more likely to own smartphones

And for many, smartphones are the primary route to the web, Pew finds.

Kevin Woodward

Senior Editor

Lead Photo

Smartphone ownership is changing as more younger people adopt the devices.

Consumers in their mid-20s through their mid-30s are more likely to own a smartphone than older consumers, suggests a study from the Pew Research Center. That could play a role in setting mobile commerce strategies for some retailers, some mobile experts say.

As age increases, smartphone ownership decreases, Pew finds. In the survey of more than 2,700 U.S. consumers, 58% of those between 25 and 34 years old own a smartphone, compared with 22% of those between 55 and 64. Of young adults between 18 and 24, 49% own a smartphone. Smartphone ownership is at 44% for those between 35 and 44, and at 11% for consumers 65 and older. Overall, Pew says 35% of U.S. adults own a smartphone.

This insight into smartphone ownership could help guide retailers’ mobile commerce strategies, says Nikki Baird, managing partner at Retail Systems Research LLC. These results show that it’s not affluent middle-aged businessmen who are the primary smartphone owners, she says. “This definitely undermines some of those assumptions, particularly age and income,” Baird adds.

Baird advises retailers planning mobile commerce strategies to note that younger people are more likely to own smartphones. “Just assuming a group of consumers are college kids and can’t afford smartphones is not necessarily a good assumption to make,” she says.

Additionally, Pew finds that 25% of smartphone owners use their devices as the main way they access the Internet. Within this group, 40% have household incomes of less than $30,000. And 42% of them are between 18 and 29 years old.

Today’s youthful consumers will move into higher income levels as they age, and retailers need to consider that as they plan their mobile commerce strategies, Baird says.


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