If you’re not watching The Pew Research Center’s Internet American Life Project website, you’re missing out. Nearly every month, Pew releases a new report with insights into how American adults are using the Internet, from how often we post Facebook updates to what we search on Google. Last month they provided an interesting report on how Americans are embracing smartphones.
The big headline for many social media observers was that a lot of people are now smartphone owners, but that wasn’t the only interesting finding. We took a deeper dive to find five key takeaways from Pew’s smartphone research on how older adults are using these new technologies.
Pew’s research found that a third of American adults own smartphones and more than 80 percent own cell phones. The report points out that smartphone users are more likely to be wealthier and more educated, under the age of 45, and live in the city or suburbs.
Older Adults – Cell Phones, Smartphones or Lack Thereof
Not surprisingly, older adults were less likely to be smartphone owners. Just 11 percent of people 65 and older own a smartphones and 24 percent of people age 50 to 64. While those numbers are small compared to younger folks, it’s important to note that 11 percent of people 65 and older still equates to around 4.4 million people in the U.S.
The finding that really caught my eye was that 44 percent of people age 65 and older do not own a cell phone at all. While it’s clear that the use of new technologies like smartphones is growing across all ages, it’s important to note that there is a real mobile divide, especially when it comes to folks with lower incomes, which I’ll touch on in just a minute.
Using Smartphones to Access the Internet
So, how do older adults who do own smartphones use their devices? The report found that 44 percent of people 50 and older use their device to access the Internet or access email every day, while 72 percent have used their device to get online at least once before.
When the report zeroed in on those who use their smartphone as their primary means to go online, it was found that only 10 percent of people 50 and older go online “mostly using their cell phone.” Contrast that with 42 percent of people age 18 to 29. This raises the question of whether this is a trend that will spread across all age ranges soon.
Using Other Devices
It’s no surprise that smartphone owners are more likely to own other technologies like tablets, e-readers and MP3 players. The chart below illustrates the technologies smartphone users own across all age groups.
More than Age
While age is a significant indicator of how a person might use technology, it’s not the only indicator. It’s sometimes easy to lump people in big buckets, like older adults 50+ or 50 to 65, but that can often be too broad of a brushstroke. For example, as I mentioned above, 44 percent of people 65 and older don’t own a smartphone at all. That’s a pretty big number, but when we look deeper at households with incomes less than $30,000 a year, that number jumps to 57 percent. That’s huge. Clearly income, not just age, affects adoption rates.
Similarly, while Pew does not break some other demographic findings out by age, the report did show that African-Americans (44 percent) and Latinos (44 percent) are more likely than whites (30 percent) to own smartphones.
All this indicates that smartphone adoption rates depend on a number of factors, including age, income, where you live and more.
What data from the Pew report surprised you?
Image credit: matthijs
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