85% of US Adults Have Cell Phone

February 4, 2011

pew-cell-phone-feb-2011.JPGEighty-five percent of US adults 18 and older own a cell phone, Blackberry, iPhone or other mobile device that acts as a phone, according to [pdf] a new study from Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Data from “Generations and Their Gadgets” indicates mobile phones are especially popular with adults under the age of 66, although the largest drop-off is for adults in the oldest generation (those age 75 and older), of whom 48% own a cell phone.

Almost All Millennials Own Cell Phone

At the other end of the spectrum, 95% of Millennials (18-34) own a cell phone. Cell phone ownership also exceeds 90% for Gen X (92%, 35-46). Even among Older Boomers age 57-65, cell phone ownership is a solid majority 84%.

9 in 10 US Adults Lives in Cell Phone Household

pew-cell-phone-households-feb-2011.JPGWhen asked further about the presence of mobile phones in their households, one-third (33%) of those who do not own a cell phone live in a household with at least one working mobile phone. This means that overall, 90% of all adults, including 62% of those age 75 and older, live in a household with at least one working cell phone.

Among Millennials, this figure reaches 97%, and Gen X trails closely with 96% living in a household with at least one working cell phone.

Millennials Lead Cell Phone Use for Variety of Activities

pew-cell-phone-actions-feb-2011.JPGThough cell phones are now ubiquitous in American homes, the level of engagement with the phones does vary widely between generations. Pew data shows that while roughly the same proportion of adults in the Millennial generation and Generation X own cell phones, Millennials are significantly more likely to use their phones for a variety of purposes.

A majority of Millennials use their phones for taking photos, texting, going online, sending email, playing games, listening to music, and recording videos; making them significantly more likely than any other generation to engage in all of these activities.

In fact, the only two activities that are widely popular for all cell phone owners are taking pictures and sending text messages. Taking pictures is the most popular function on Americans’ phones, with more than half of all cell phone owners under the age of 75 using their phones for this purpose (only 16% of adults age 75 and older take photos with their phones). Text messaging, though also widely adopted, is less popular with adults older than age 56.

1 in 4 US Adults Lives in Wireless Phone-only Household

In the first six months of 2010, more than one of every four US households (26.6%) did not have a landline telephone but did have at least one wireless telephone, according to preliminary estimates from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). Approximately 25% of all adults (or about 57 million adults) lived in households with only wireless telephones; 29% of all children (or more than 21 million children) lived in households with only wireless telephones.

About the Data: These findings are based on a survey of 3,001 American adults (ages 18 and older) conducted between August 9 and September 13, 2010. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish, and the survey included 1,000 cell phone interviews.

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