Mobile Adoption Rises Among Americans Ages 50+; Here’s the Latest on Their Top Device Activities

February 28, 2020

This article is included in these additional categories:

Boomers & Older | Cross-Media & Traditional | Demographics & Audiences | Digital | Email | Mobile Phone | Social Media | Tablet | Videogames

AARP Smartphone Activities Among the 50 Plus Feb2020More than three-quarters (77%) of US adults ages 50 and up owned a smartphone as of mid-2019, a figure representing a 10% rise from 70% a couple of years earlier. Among these smartphone owners, 9 in 10 use their devices daily, with the majority (83%) using them to send or receive messages such as texts and emails, per new research [pdf] from AARP.

It’s safe to say that most older adults are not early adopters, as the majority report either buying after many others have (38%) or being the last to buy (49%). That said, smartphone adoption among 50+ adults has risen considerably since 2014, when fewer than half (48%) of adults in this age group owned a smartphone (compared to 80% of 18-49-year-olds). Unsurprisingly, current adoption is highest among adults in their 50s (86%) and 60s (81%), although a majority (62%) of adults 70+ own a smartphone.

Other than sending and receiving messages, several other device activities are performed by at least half of smartphone owners ages 50. These are:

  • Getting directions or traffic information (68%);
  • Visiting websites or surfing the internet (58%);
  • Getting news and other information (58%); and
  • Accessing social networking sites (55%).

Interestingly – and perhaps due to differences in sample methodology – fewer older adults report using their smartphones to perform these functions than they did in a similar survey two years ago. Notably, though, a more noticeable decline can be seen in the number of these adults who use their smartphone to download and purchase apps (51% in 2019, down from 69% in 2017). This follows a broader trend in which more US consumers now than a few years ago are saying they don’t download apps.

Tablet Adoption Also Rises

As with smartphones, tablet adoption has been on a steady rise for the past 5 years, climbing from 30% in 2014 to 52% in 2019. Indeed, tablet adoption among 50+ adults is now higher than among 18-49-year-olds (49%). In 2019, adults in their 50s had the highest adoption rate of tablets (51%), although those in their 60s (49%) and 70s+ (40%) were not too far behind.

The study reveals that 3 out of 5 tablet owners ages 50 and older use their tablets daily. Unlike with smartphones, though, daily usage is more prevalent among tablet owners in their 60s (63%) and those 70 and older (61%) than those in their 50s (55%).

Here are some of the top activities tablet owners ages 50 and older are engaging in on their devices:

  • Visiting websites or surfing the internet (54%);
  • Getting news and other information (43%);
  • Accessing a social networking site (41%); and
  • Playing games (41%).

The full report can be found here.

About the Data: Findings are based on a survey of 2,607 US adults ages 50 and older.



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