Smartphone Ownership Up, Other Devices Left in the Dust

Who needs an MP3 player or a game console when they’ve got a smartphone?

More than two-thirds of U.S. adults own a smartphone, up from 35% in 2011, and tablet computer ownership has edged up to 45% among adults, according to new data from the Pew Research Center.

Smartphone ownership is nearing saturation in some groups. Most Millennials in the 18- to 29-year-old group (86%) have one, and so do those age 30 to 49 (83%). More than three-quarters of people (87%) in households earning at least $75,000 annually have smartphones.

Adoption of other digital devices has appeared to slow recently, even dipping in some cases. About one in five adults (19%) now has an electronic reader, down from early 2014, when one-third (32%) reported owning one. Ownership of MP3 players has not dipped noticeably, but the percentage of adults who own one has remained stable, hovering around the 40% mark since 2008. And computer ownership levels have stayed roughly where they were a decade ago, according to the findings.

Some changes in device ownership are especially noticeable for young adults. Among those ages 18 to 29, ownership of MP3 players and computers has shown double-digit slides in the past five years. Today, 78% of adults younger than 30 own a laptop or desktop computer, compared with 88% who did so in 2010.

Smartphone ownership surpasses both devices, with 86% of those 18 to 29 owning one in 2015. The main reason? The increasing use of smartphones as all-purpose devices that can take the place of specialized technology, such as music players, e-book readers and gaming devices.

Roughly nine in 10 American adults (92%) own a mobile phone of some kind. The share of adults who own one has also skyrocketed since 2004, when Pew Research conducted its first poll on cell ownership and merely 65% of Americans owned a cellphone.

Among other findings:

  • 98% of young adults own a cellphone.
  • Computer ownership dipped to 78%, from 88% in 2010.
  • Ownership of tablet computers—that is, iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Kindle Fire, Google Nexus—soared to 50%, from 5% in 2010.