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More young adults now own a smartphone than a computer

Smartphones and tablets have cut into almost every other device, including e-readers and MP3 players

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
October 29, 2015
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/4104

Have you recently come across someone who doesn't have a smartphone and your thought is, "What's wrong with you?" That's because it's getting to the point where, literally, almost everyone has one now. Even kids in elementary school!

As of 2015, over two thirds, or 68 percent, of U.S. adults own a smartphone, according to a report out from Pew on Thursday. That's nearly double the 35 percent who owned one in 2011.

Importantly, smartphone ownership has risen dramatically among the 30-and-under crowd, with 86 percent owning one in 2015, up from 52 percent in 2011. And, in the first time, the number of those in this age group who own a smartphone has surpassed the number who own either a desktop or laptop.

Not surprising, the percent of those who own a computer dropped 10 percent, to 78 percent, in five years.

While smartphone ownership among the younger generations has skyrocketed in the last five years, it does appear that growth could slow down pretty soon.

Smartphone saturation among certain groups

For instance, 83 percent of those between 30 and 49 years old have smartphones, as do 87 percent of those living in households earning $75,000 and up annually. So many people now have smartphones that the industry is actually beginning to run out of new customers in the United States.

Tablet ownership has also risen drastically over the last few years, though it has not yet reached the ubiquity of the smartphone, hitting 45 percent of all adults, up from only 3 percent in 2010.

What's most interesting about the rapid rise of these devices is the effect that they are having on ownership of other devices. As you can see in the graph below, smartphones and tablets have seen huge gains over the last five years. Just about everything else has begun to see a decline.

Around 73 percent of all U.S. adults own a desktop or laptop computer, down slighly from the 71 percent of who owned one in 2004. The highest number of computer owners occured in 2012, with 80 percent. The first iPad had come out two years earlier, so the writing was probably already on the wall. Now that smartphone ownership has crept up, it should be long before they completely surpass computers altogether.

Another device that's taken a hit are e-readers going to 19 percent among all US adults, down from 32 percent in early 2014, a pretty big drop in only a year and a half. We now live in a world where you can read books from a smartphone or tablet, and having an extra device is unnessecary.

Mp3 players have taken a hit as well, though a much smaller one, with 40 percent of U.S. adults owning one, down from 43 percent in 2013.

It seems like there's one one type of device that has not been cut into because of smartphones: gaming devices. Console ownership has stayed the same for the last five years, with 40 percent of adults owning one. Meanwhile 14 percent have a portable gaming device such as a PSP or Sega Genesis game player, similar to the share who owned one in 2009. While other devices have been cannablized by smartphones, it looks like gaming has not been affected as much as you'd think.