Over two-thirds of Americans have smartphones, nearly half have tablets, and ownership of other kinds of electronics is flat or shrinking

tablet and smartphone

A recent report from the Pew Research Center says that 68% of American adults have smartphones and 45% have tablets. With some groups, the ownership rate is even higher — among American adults, the smartphone ownership figure jumps up to nearly 90% for those under 30 or who live in households earning $75,000 or more per year.

smartphone ownership

The ownership rate for smartphones has doubled since 2011, and the rate for tablets has grown by 15 times since 2010. Over the same period, the ownership rates for some electronic products — desktop/laptop computers, and console/portable gaming devices — have remained flat.

personal electronics ownership rates

Other once-hot categories of personal electronics, such as digital cameras and MP3 players, have seen their ownership rates decline thanks to smartphones and tablets usurping their roles. Consider the photo below, taken from a 1980s Sony advertisement. Every device that appears in it, other than the speakers and headphones, has been usurped by smartphones and tablets:

80s tech replaced by smartphone

Some other observations based on the survey’s results:

  • There’s been a slight drop in the rate of desktop/laptop computers in the under-30 set. In 2010, the ownership rate among adults under 30 was 88%; in 2015, that figure is 78%.
  • The smartphone ownership rate for the under-30 set is almost the same as their desktop/laptop computer ownership rate for 2010. In 2015, 86% of adults between the ages of 18 and 30 owned a smartphone.
  • After smartphones, computers are the next most popular personal electronic devices. 73% of American adults own a desktop or laptop computer, which is about the same rate of ownership in 2004 (when 71% of American adults owned one), but down from the 2012 high of 80%.
  • If you consider the category of cellular phones, which includes smartphones and so-called “feature phones”, the ownership rate is 92%. This is a leap from just over a decade ago, when Pew’s survey reported that 65% of American adults owned a cellular phone.

To find out more about the survey results, you can download Pew’s full report [823KB PDF] free of charge.

this article also appears in the GSG blog