Useful summary of mobile device usage in the USA

Posted by Ray Poynter, 3 April 2018

A recent Pew Report (Mobile Fact Sheet – 5 February, 2018) shared some great data on the devices the US population are using. The topline numbers show that by early 2018, 95% of the US population had a mobile phone, with nearly 80% of the population having a smartphone.

The chart below was created by using data from two sections of the report and combining them (if you click on it you will see a larger version).

Chart of device usage

Several key trends are clear and important.

  1. Mobile phones are ubiquitous – nearly everybody has one.
  2. Smartphones are really common, but over one-fifth of the population does NOT have one.
  3. The ownership and use of desktop/laptop computers has plateaued at about 70-75%.
  4. Tablets are still growing, and may overtake desktop/laptop computers soon.
  5. E-readers seem to be stuck at 20% of the population – and perhaps that will fall when the ones currently in use break?

Digging into the data
The report from Pew has some great nuggets relating to differences by groups. For example, smartphone ownership amongst the over 65 year olds is less than 50% (46%). Ownership of smartphones is over 90% for the under thirties, college graduates, and those earning over $75,000 a year.

The report highlights a very important group for market researchers, people who have a smartphone but who do not have broadband at home, i.e. they are unlikely to be able to take surveys on a desktop/laptop computer. Across the whole population this group is just 12% of the population. But amongst some groups the figure is considerably higher:

  • Did not graduate high school, 27%
  • Hispanic, 23%
  • Earns less than $30,000 a year, 21%
  • 18 to 29 years old, 17%

Lessons for other countries?
This data is from the USA and highlights trends that are common in many other countries. For example, mobile phones are becoming ubiquitous, smartphones are common but (in most countries) not everybody has one, smartphones are outstripping desktop/laptop computers (and tablets are catching up too). However, in many countries, the dependence on smartphones is much higher than in the USA.

The main message is that the mid-term future for market research is smartphone, but in the short-term, remember that not everybody has one. As for the long term, we have no idea what the next generation of devices after smartphones will be 🙂