Young Adults Lead Mobile App Use

July 13, 2010

Young adults engage in mobile data applications at much higher rates than adults in age brackets 30 and older, according to new data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Young Adults Lead All Mobile Apps
Nine in 10 18-to-29 year olds own a cell phone, and these young cell owners are significantly more likely than those in other age groups to engage in all of the mobile data applications Pew asked about in its survey.

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Usage rates of mobile applications declined chronologically across four major age demographics for all apps which were tracked. For example, 95% of 18-to-29-year-old cell phone owners send and receive text messages, compared to 82% of 30-to-49-year-olds, 57% of 50-to-64-year-olds, and 19% of 65 and older.

However, the proportional ratio of usage rates for different apps among different age groups varied from app to app. While 93% of 18-to-29-year-olds use their cell phone to take a picture, as do 83% of 30-to-49-year-olds, so do 67% of 50-to-64-year-olds and 34% of 65 and older. Photography was the most popular app for all age groups except 18-to-29-year-olds, who preferred text messaging by a small margin.
As would be expected, 18-to-29-year-olds lead in the mean number of cell phone activities in which they engage (6.9), followed by 30-to-49-year-olds (4.7), 50-to-64-year-olds (2.5) and 65 and older (1.2).

30-to-49 Bracket Leads in Growth
While their younger counterparts use the most mobile apps, 30-to-49-year-olds have the highest growth rate, compared with a similar point in 2009, cell owners ages 30 to 49 are significantly more likely to use a range of mobile data applications on a handheld device.

The mobile data applications with the largest year-to-year increases among the 30-to-49-year-old demographic include taking pictures (83% of 30-to-49-year-old cell owners now do this, a 12-point increase from 2009); recording videos (39% do this now, an18-point increase from 2009); playing music (36% do this now, a 15-point increase); using instant messaging (35% now do this, a 14-point increase); and accessing the internet (43% now do this, a 12-point increase compared with 2009).

This leading growth is reflected in a cell phone ownership rate among 30-to-49-year-olds (88%) nearly identical to the ownership rate among 18-to-29-year-olds (90%). This rate drops off among 50-to-64-year-olds (82%) and 65 and older (57%).

Minority Mobile Use Outpaces White Mobile Use
Minority Americans lead the way when it comes to mobile access, especially mobile access using handheld devices. Nearly two-thirds of African-Americans (64%) and Latinos (63%) are wireless internet users, and minority Americans are significantly more likely to own a cell phone than are their white counterparts (87% of blacks and Hispanics own a cell phone, compared with 80% of whites).

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In addition, black and Latino cell phone owners take advantage of a much wider array of their phones’ data functions compared to white cell phone owners. It is important to note that Pew data for Hispanics represents English-speaking Hispanics only, as its survey did not provide a Spanish-language option.

Young Consumers Want Cell Phone Features
Consumers in the 18-to-34 age group most desire extra cell phone features at a rapidly growing rate, according to a recent survey from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and BIGresearch.

Slightly more than half (51.4%) of consumers age 18-34 wanted internet access on their cell phones in January 2010, up 15% from 44.6% in October 2009.

Results in responses to a question about having email access on their cell phones were similar. Almost the same percentage of 18-to-34-year-olds (51.1%) wanted email access on their cell phones in January 2010, up 18.3% from 43.2% in October 2009.esults in responses to a question about having email access on their cell phones were similar. Almost the same percentage of 18-to-34-year-olds (51.1%) wanted email access on their cell phones in January 2010, up 18.3% from 43.2% in October 2009.

About the Data: The Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project surveyed 2,252 adults 18 and older, including 1,917 cell phone users, April 29 – May 30, 2010.

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