How younger Americans use their smartphones differently

A recent study from the Pew Research Center reveals some details about Americans and their smartphones. 64% of American adults now own a smartphone, but that number increases to 79% for ages 30-49, and 85% for 18-29. Throughout the report there are several interesting details showing that younger people use their smartphones differently than the rest of the population.

All smartphones users frequently make phone calls, text, email, and access the internet. However, compared to 50+ year olds, 18-29 year olds are about twice as likely or more to: listen to music or a podcast, watch video, get turn by turn navigation, get public transit directions, hail a cab, bank online, research a health condition, look up real estate info, research a job, and access educational content. Younger Americans are much more likely to use their smartphone as more of a general purpose computing and entertainment device than their elders.

Younger users are more likely to hit their data cap, as are non-whites and lower-income users. That may be because these users are also much more likely to depend on a smartphone for internet access and be without home broadband service. 10% of American adults have a smartphone but no home broadband, and 19% have no home broadband or a 'limited number of options' for going online other than their smartphone. In addition to hitting their data caps more frequently, these smartphone-dependent users are more than twice as likely to suspend service for financial reasons.

Perhaps a smartphone is all some people want or need, but the data would imply it is a financial decision for many. Given a choice of only one option, it seems reasonable that younger adults would tend to pick a smartphone and older adults may be more likely to choose a computer with home broadband.

My takeaway from this report is that younger users are dependent on smartphones. Dependent in the sense that it is the primary form of internet access for some, but also in the sense that it is the device young people constantly use for a variety of tasks. It was also somewhat surprising to see how many Americans depend on smartphones as their primary access to the internet. This is a common narrative when discussing the developing world, but I was surprised that it is so prevalent here at home. Is it possible that this will become even more common as mobile apps become more powerful and accessible?

See the full report, with more details and data.