Smartphone Dependence on the Rise: Pew

A small but significant portion of Americans can only access the Web via a smartphone, according to new data from the Pew Research Center.

Roughly 7 percent of Americans own a smartphone “but have neither traditional broadband service at home, nor easily available alternatives for going online other than their cell phone,” reads Pew’s report. (Pew drew its data from a survey of 2,002 adults in late 2014.)

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In a totally unsurprising twist, Pew’s data also suggested that, while two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone of some kind, “smartphone ownership is especially high among younger Americans, as well as those with relatively high income and education levels.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 9.35.43 AMSome 15 percent of Americans between the ages of 18-29 said they depended heavily on a smartphone for online access. Around 13 percent of Americans with low household incomes and lesser educational attainment also identified themselves as heavily smartphone-dependent, versus 1 percent of Americans with household incomes of $75,000 and above.

“Compared with smartphone owners who are less reliant on their mobile devices,” Pew’s report continued, “these smartphone-dependent users are less likely to own some other type of computing device, less likely to have a bank account, less likely to be covered by health insurance, and more likely to rent or to live with a friend or family member rather than own their own home.”

Americans also use their smartphones for more than making calls, checking mail or playing games, with around 62 percent indicating they used their devices to look up information about health conditions. Another 57 percent had used their phone for online banking at some point in the previous year, while 43 percent used it to look up information about a job.

For developers, data like this could prove useful when building apps. With more and more Americans treating their smartphones as the center of their computing lives, optimizing services for touch and smaller screens is vital.

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Images: Kostenko Maxim/Pew Research Center