4 Eye-Opening Trends in How Americans Use Technology

by Peter Thomas Ricci

What forms of technology are most popular with American adults?


Sixty-eight percent of U.S. adults now own a smartphone, up from 35 percent in 2011. Tablet ownership has soared to 45 percent. And in the last 11 years, cell phone ownership has jumped from 65 percent to 92 percent.

Those were the main findings of a wide-ranging report from Pew Research, which surveyed nearly 2,000 adults on the technological devices they own. And with 43 percent of homebuyers today now finding their future home on the Internet (and 92 percent using the Internet at some point in their search), Pew’s findings are especially relevant to how agents conduct their business in today’s market.

With that in mind, here are the four most notable trends from Pew’s report:

1. Millennials Embrace Mobility – The aforementioned technological trends were particularly pronounced among the Millennial generation. Since 2010, smartphone ownership among U.S. adults aged 18 to 29 has risen from 52 percent to 86 percent, while tablet ownership has skyrocketed from 5 percent to 50 percent; meanwhile, computer ownership is down from 88 percent to 78 percent, a clear sign that Millennials are embracing more mobile technology.

2. Smartphone Demographics – More than two-thirds of U.S. adults may own a smartphone, but there are interesting nuances to how that statistic breaks down at the demographic level. For instance, a greater share of African American adults own a smartphone, at 68 percent, than whites (66 percent) or Hispanics (64 percent). Eighty-six percent of Millennials and 83 percent of Gen Xers own smartphones, compared with 58 percent of Baby Boomers and 30 percent of the Silent Generation. And among adults making $75,000 or more, 87 percent own smartphones, compared to 52 percent who make less than $30,000.

That said, cell phone ownership exceeds 90 percent for nearly all demographics, with even 78 percent of Silent Generation adults owning a device.

3. The Young, the Affluent, the Tablet Owner – Both age and affluence play a critical role in tablet ownership. Again, 45 percent of all U.S. adults own a tablet, but ownership is lower for Baby Boomers, at 37 percent, and higher for Millennials and Gen Xers at 50 and 57 percent, respectively. Similarly, 67 percent of higher-income earners have a tablet, compared to 28 percent of lower-income adults. Also, while 35 percent of high school graduates own a tablet, so do 62 percent of college graduates.

An interesting tidbit – tablet ownership is higher in the suburbs, at 50 percent, than the 42 percent for urban residents.

4. Computer Ownership Varies Wildly – Pew noted that at 73 percent of U.S. adults, computer ownership is roughly where it was 10 years ago. As with smartphones, though, there are considerable differences in the fine print: 79 percent of whites own a computer, compared to 63 percent of Hispanics and 45 percent of African Americans; 91 percent of upper-class adults own a computer, compared to 50 percent of the working class; and only 55 percent of Silent Generation adults own a computer, while 81 percent of Gen Xers and 78 percent of Millennials own one.

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