Three-quarters of U.S. residents now own smartphones and nearly 90 percent are online, according to a report published last week by the Pew Research Center.
Smartphone adoption had the sharpest increase. The report shows 77 percent of Americans own smartphones, up from 35 percent in 2011.
Pew Research Center has chronicled this trend and others through more than 15 years of surveys on internet and technology use, according to report author, Aaron Smith.
It’s important to note the distinction in types of phones adopted. There’s a big difference in the terms “cellphone” and “smartphone.” Cellphones are mobile devices, but not all cellphones are “smart.”
According to the study, 95 percent of Americans report owning a cellphone of some type. One-hundred percent of the respondents in the 18-29 age group reported owning some type of cellphone.
The Pew study findings also showed a slight increase in home internet adoption in 2016. This followed a downward trend from 2013 to 2015, during which time home internet use dropped from 70 percent to 67 percent.
A drop of 3 percent may seem insignificant, and likely due to an increase in smartphone adoptions.
It’s a simple case of paying for the same thing twice. Look at it this way: if you have access to a super computer connected to a 4G network in the palm of your hand, do you need internet access at home?
Apparently some Americans still value their at home internet.
Or there could be another reason.
“Even as [internet] adoption has been on the rise, 12 percent of Americans say they are smartphone dependent when it comes to their online access,” Smith said. Smartphone dependents own a smartphone but don’t have home internet service.
“The share of Americans who are smartphone dependent has increased 4 percentage points since 2013,” Smith said. “Smartphone reliance is especially pronounced among young adults, nonwhites and those with relatively low household incomes.”
Those without high school diplomas are less likely than college grads to have internet access at home. Age, income, geographic location, race and ethnicity are all indicators of whether or not a home will have internet access.
“As of November 2016, [73 percent] of Americans indicate that they have broadband service at home,” Smith said. “But although [internet] adoption has increased to its highest level since the Center began tracking this topic in early 2000, not all Americans have shared in these gains.”
Accompanying the Pew report on connectivity is a new set of fact sheets focused on three primary research areas: internet, smartphones and social media. According to Smith, Pew plans to update the subject areas with new information as it’s collected.
The fact sheets are a “one-stop shop for anyone looking for information on key trends in digital technology,” Smith said.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator newspaper on social media and society.