Almost Three-Quarters of Americans Over 55 Now Own A Smartphone

November 29, 2018

This article is included in these additional categories:

Digital | Industries | Mobile Phone | Non-mobile Connected Devices | Retail & E-Commerce | Tablet

Older Americans are catching up in terms of smartphone penetration in the US, according to the latest annual mobile consumer survey from Deloitte [download page]. Some 74% of adults over the age of 55 now own a smartphone (up from 67% last year), making them the fastest-growing group in terms of smartphone ownership.

This figure for older Americans aligns with previous findings this year from the Pew Research Center, which revealed that the majority (55%) of those aged 70 or older also owned a smartphone.

The combined annual growth rate (CAGR) for smartphones in the 55+ group stands at 11.6% in the period from 2015, when Deloitte’s study then reported that 53% had such a device.

But for younger adult consumers, the near-saturation of the market means growth in ownership has leveled out, as 94% of US consumers aged 18-24 now own a device (up just a single percentage point from 93% last year). The CAGR for this group since 2015 is just 1.8%.

The Smartphone Dominates Most Activities – Apart from Shopping

With the size of the app economy, today’s smartphone can be used for a near infinite number of applications. As such, it comes as no surprise that the report shows it is the device of choice for many purposes such as checking bank balances, video calls, watching short videos or watching the news. In fact only among people over 45 does laptop/desktop dominate in those areas.

However, traditional computers remain the most commonly used device for browsing shopping websites (except for 25-34 year olds) and making online purchases. These findings tally with those noted by Forrester, which reported that the use of smartphones for shopping actually fell last year to just 36% of reported sales (from 43% the previous year).

The Smartphone Blends Work and Personal Life

An interesting point that the research highlights is how smartphones have merged personal and work-related time. Seven in 10 say they use their personal smartphone for work outside of working hours (35% “very/fairly often” and 35% “occasionally”) while 94% use their personal smartphone during work hours (59% “very/fairly often” and 35% “occasionally”).

Part of the drive in using personal smartphones for work activity may be the growth in the use of apps such as Slack in addition to traditional email: white-collar workers report that instant messaging has innovated the most in the past five years compared to other communications formats.

The Smartphone Is The Most Popular Device, As Others Stall

The smartphone is the most prevalent device among US consumers, with 85% owning one. This beats those with a laptop (77%), tablet (57%) or desktop computer (57%). And while more than 1 in 5 own a fitness band (21%), smartwatches are yet to achieve the same penetration, with only 14% owning one.

However, tablet ownership has fallen this year (from 62%) as have other devices such as Ereaders (20% this year v. 24% in 2017), portable game consoles (18% v. 21%) and VR headsets (8% v. 10%). As many smartphones can perform these activities, consumers may be simply doing more with one device.

The study notes that 94% of smartphone owners use their devices daily, compared to just 74% for laptop owners, 52% for tablet owners and 17% for those that own VR headsets.

The full report can be accessed here.

About the data: The study is based on a survey of approximately 2,000 respondents within the United States, conducted in August 2018.

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