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10% of Americans own a smartphone but do not have broadband at home, and 15% own a smartphone but say that they have a limited number of options for going online other than their cell phone.
Those with relatively low income and educational attainment levels, younger adults, and non-whites are especially likely to be “smartphone-dependent.” Smartphones are widely used for navigating numerous important life activities, from researching a health condition to accessing educational resources.
This report documents the unique circumstances of this “smartphone-dependent” population, and also explores the ways in which smartphone owners use their phones to engage in a wide range of activities.
Below are some more details about these major findings on the state of smartphone ownership in America today, based on a series of surveys conducted by Pew Research Center in association with the John S. Knight Foundation: Nearly two-thirds of Americans are now smartphone owners, and for many these devices are a key entry point to the online world 64% of American adults now own a smartphone of some kind, up from 35% in the spring of 2011.
About three-quarters of 18-29 year old smartphone owners have used their phone in the last year to get information about a health condition; about seven-in-ten have used their phone to do online banking or to look up information about job; 44% have consumed educational content on their phone; and 34% have used their phone to apply for a job.
A substantial majority of smartphone owners use their phone to follow along with news events near and far, and to share details of local happenings with others: Each of these behaviors is common across a diverse group of smartphone owners.
The survey measured reliance on smartphones for online access in two different ways — first, by asking smartphone owners whether or not they have traditional broadband service at home, and second, whether they have a reasonable number of options for accessing the internet in general from any location.
And for a number of Americans, smartphones serve as an essential connection to the broader world of online information.
Younger smartphone owners are especially avid users of text messaging, but this group has by no means abandoned voice calls — 93% of smartphone owners ages 18-29 used voice or video calling on at least one occasion during the study period, and reported doing so in an average of 3.9 surveys.
Email has long ranked as one of the most common activities that users take part in online since the desktop/laptop era, and it continues to play a prominent role in the mobile era as well.
Even as a substantial minority of Americans indicate that their phone plays a central role in their ability to access digital services and online content, for many users this access is often intermittent due to a combination of financial stresses and technical constraints.
Nearly half (48%) of smartphone-dependent Americans have had to cancel or shut off their cell phone service for a period of time because the cost of maintaining that service was a financial hardship.