Feature Article

June 05, 2013

When will all Mobile Phones be Smartphones?

At some point, we are going to stop tracking “smartphone” adoption as something distinct from “feature phones” or “basic phones,” though the distinctions between devices of different operating systems, suppliers and price ranges will continue to be significant.

We are not quite there yet, but are approaching the point at which a “phone” is virtually identical to a “smartphone.” A majority of U.S. phone users surveyed by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project now own a smartphone of some kind, for example.

Pew researchers estimate that 61 percent of mobile device owners use smartphones. Since 91 percent of the U.S. adult population now owns some kind of mobile phone, that means that 56 percent of all U.S. adults are now smartphone adopters.

Still, some 35 percent of users have some other kind of phone that is not a smartphone, while 9 percent of U.S. adults do not own a mobile phone.

Though there are some differences in smartphone adoption based on income, education or age, smartphone ownership grew between 2012 and 2013 for every user segment.

As often is the case, seniors—defined as those 65 and older—continue to exhibit relatively low adoption levels compared with other demographic groups.

Some 18 percent of U.S. residents age 65 and older now own a smartphone, compared with 13 percent in February 2012. Smartphone use by younger users ranges as high as 81 percent.

In the 18 to 29 age segment, smartphone ownership is as high as 90 percent.

Android owners now represent 28 percent of all mobile phone owners, up from 15 percent in May 2011, while iPhone owners now represent 25 percent of the phone owner population, up from 10 percent in May 2011.

Meanwhile, the proportion of device owners who say they own a BlackBerry has fallen from 10 percent in May 2011 to just 4 percent.

Android and iPhone owners are equally common within the mobile-using population as a whole.

But Pew found that although phone owners from a wide range of educational and household income groupings have similar levels of Android adoption, users from the upper end of the income and education spectrum are much more likely than those with lower income and educational levels to say they own an iPhone.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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