Smartphone usage soars in US as other devices’ popularity declines

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Shutterstock / Axel Bueckert
Uniting a country as large as the United States is hard work — just ask any of the dozens of men and women running for president this election season. But if there’s something that the vast majority of Americans have in common, it’s our love of smartphones. According to a new Pew Research Center report titled “Technology Device Ownership: 2015,” 68 percent of adults in the U.S. own a smartphone, representing an increase of almost 100 percent since 2011, when just 35 percent of adults owned a smartphone. And while smartphone adoption has skyrocketed, it may have come at the expense of other gadgets and gizmos, as Pew found that “the adoption of some digital devices has slowed and even declined in recent years.”

The ubiquity of smartphones is even more pronounced among certain age groups and demographics in the U.S. — unsurprisingly, younger generations are particularly attached to their iPhones and Androids, with 86 percent of individuals between the ages of 18 and 29 declaring themselves owners of such a device. Eighty-three percent of those aged 30 to 49 own a smartphone, and an impressive 87 percent of those in households making more than $75,000 a year own smartphones.

And as smartphones begin to replace the functionality of other devices, it seems that technology like laptops and e-readers have become less of a necessity. Pew suggests that “as smartphones came to prominence several years ago, younger owners perhaps did not feel as much of a need as their older peers to have other kinds of devices.”

Today, according to the recent survey, an overwhelming 92 percent of American adults own a cellphone (which may or may not be a smartphone), making them the most popular devices available. Laptops come next at 73 percent, but after smartphones (68 percent), the drop-off is quite precipitous — fewer than half of U.S. adults own a tablet computer, an MP3 player, or a game console, and less than one in five Americans can claim ownership of an e-reader or portable gaming device.

“These data suggest how the rise of smartphones has been a major story in the universe of connected gadgetry,” said Lee Rainie, who leads Pew’s Internet and technology research. “These changes in device ownership are all taking place in a world where smartphones are transforming into all-purpose devices that perform many of the same functions of specialized technology, such as music players, e-book readers or even gaming devices,” she continued, and the Pew Research team further notes, “[the smartphone] has had a major social, political and cultural impact [and] has changed the way people reach their friends, obtain data and media, and share their lives.”

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