2019 Tech Update: Mobile and Social Media Usage, by Generation

October 9, 2019

This article is included in these additional categories:

Boomers & Older | Demographics & Audiences | Digital | Industries | Mobile Phone | Social Media | Tablet | Technology | Youth & Gen X

Millennials and Gen Xers continue to have the broadest access to smartphones and the heaviest use of social media versus other generations. However, the adoption of smartphones and social media for the oldest Americans, the Silent generation, has taken off, per a study by the Pew Research Center.

Here are some quick takeaways from the report.

1. 93% of Millennials Own A Smartphone

More than 8 in 10 American adults are smartphone owners as of January 2019, per the study. That’s because 96% have a cell phone, and of those cell phone owners, 84% say it’s a smartphone.

While Millennials (born 1981-1996) and Gen Xers (born 1965-1980) had similar rates of smartphone ownership back in 2011, penetration has grown slightly faster among the younger generation. However, no doubt due to a slower initial adoption rate, smartphone ownership among Silents (born 1945 and earlier) has grown the fastest of late, spiking over the past year. As it stands, the latest data indicates that:

  • 93% of Millennials own a smartphone; as do
  • 90% of Gen Xers;
  • 68% of Boomers (born 1946-1964); and
  • 40% of Silents (born 1945 or earlier).

As smartphone ownership goes up, so do the activities people use them for, including checking bank balances, reading the news or watching videos.

2. One in 3 Silents Owns a Tablet

Tablet ownership by Gen Xers experienced a nosedive in a year’s time going from 64% in 2018 to 53% in 2019. The tablet ownership numbers break out as follows:

  • Millennials: 55%;
  • Gen Xers: 53%;
  • Boomers: 52%; and
  • Silents: 33%.

Silents are once again leading the charge in recent adoption, with the third reporting table ownership this year being up from one-quarter last year.

All told, a slight majority (52%) of adults surveyed in January for Pew’s report own a tablet, up from roughly one-third (35%) in 2013.

3. Three in 4 Gen Xers Uses Social Media

As expected, Millennials are the most apt to be using social media: 86% claim to do so as of January of this year.

As social media usage appears to be plateauing for Millennials and Gen Xers, older generations have been closing the gap in recent years, as social media usage has grown more rapidly for Boomers and Silents than for Millennials.

The following figures show social media adoption in 2019 compared to 2012:

  • Millennials: 86%, up from 81%;
  • Gen Xers: 76%, up from 64%;
  • Boomers: 59%, up from 40%; and
  • Silents: 28%, up from 15%.

For a breakdown of the adult audience composition of each of the 6 major social media networks, see MarketingCharts’ “US Media Audience Demographics” report.

For more insight, find Pew’s report here.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey of 1,502 US adults (18+), including cell 1,200 phone interviews, conducted from January 8 – February 7, 2019.

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