Six in ten cell phone owners, meaning 63% of all adult Americans, now go online using their mobile phones, an eight-point increase from the...
smartphone-internetSix in ten cell phone owners, meaning 63% of all adult Americans, now go online using their mobile phones, an eight-point increase from the 55% of cell owners who did so at a similar point in 2012, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

These individuals are called “cell internet users,” and the group includes anyone who uses the internet on their cell phone (60% of cell owners do this), or anyone that uses email on their cell phone (52% of cell owners do this). The proportion of cell owners who use their phone to go online has doubled since 2009.

Because 91% of all Americans now own a cell phone, this means that 57% of all American adults are cell internet users.

The steady increase in cell phone internet usage follows a similar growth trajectory for smartphone ownership.  Over half of all adults (56%) now own a smartphone, and 93% of these smartphone owners use their phone to go online.

Additionally, one third of these cell internet users (34%) mostly use their phone to access the internet, as opposed to other devices like a desktop, laptop, or tablet computer.  Pew analysts call these individuals “cell-mostly internet users,” and they account for 21% of the total cell owner population.

In Romania, mobile operator Orange, one of the top players on the Romanian market, recently announced that it’s introducing data traffic on all its subcriptions. Orange officials said that they have noticed a 40% increase on data traffic year on year.

Coming back to US, young adults, non-whites, and those with relatively low income and education levels are particularly likely to be cell-mostly internet users.

In particular, the following groups have high levels of cell phone internet use:

Young adults: Cell owners ages 18-29 are the most likely of any demographic group to use their phone to go online: 85% of them do so, compared with 73% of cell owners ages 30-49, and 51% of those ages 50-64. Just 22% of cell owners ages 65 and older go online from their phones, making seniors the least likely demographic group to go online from a cell phone.

Non-whites: Three-quarters (74%) of African-American cell phone owners are cell internet users, as are 68% of Hispanic cell owners.

The college-educated: Three-quarters (74%) of cell owners with a college degree or higher are cell internet users, along with two-thirds (67%) of those who have attended (but not graduated) college.

The financially well-off: Cell phone owners living in households with an annual income of $75,000 or more per year are significantly more likely than those in every other income category to go online using their phones.  Some 79% of these affluent cell owners do so.

Urban and suburban residents: Urban and suburban cell owners are significantly more likely to be cell internet users than those living in rural areas.  Some 66% of urbanites and 65% of suburban-dwellers do so, compared to half of rural residents.

The prevalence of cell phone internet usage increased across a number of demographic groups since April 2012.  This includes men and women, whites and African-Americans, the college-educated, and those in the highest-income households.

In the same time, cell owners between the ages of 50 and 64 experienced a larger-than-average 15 percentage point increase in the past year. Some 51% of cell owners ages 50-64 now use their phone to go online, up from 36% who did so in the spring of 2012.

When asked which device they use most often to access the internet, one third (34%) of cell internet users say that they mostly use their cell phone rather than some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer (we refer to this group as “cell-mostly internet users”). Half (53%) of cell internet users say that they mostly go online from a device other than their cell phone, while 11% say that they use both their phone and some other device(s) equally.

As noted above, some 63% of cell owners use their phone to go online, so the “cell-mostly internet user” group represents 21% of the entire cell phone owner population.

The 34% of cell internet users who mostly use their phone to go online is similar to the 31% who did so in April 2012, but significantly larger than the 27% who did so the first time we asked this question in May 2011.

The Pew Research Center has been tracking the “cell mostly internet user” phenomenon since 2011, and over that time several demographic groups—young adults, non-whites, the less educated, and the less affluent—have said that they go online mostly using their cell phone at consistently high rates. This remains true in 2013, as our data indicates:

Non-whites: Among those who use their phone to go online, six in ten Hispanics and 43% of African-Americans are cell-mostly internet users, compared with 27% of whites.

Young adults: Half of cell internet users ages 18-29 mostly use their cell phone to go online.

The less-educated: Some 45% of cell internet users with a high school diploma or less mostly use their phone to go online, compared with 21% of those with a college degree.

The less-affluent: Similarly, 45% of cell internet users living in households with an annual income of less than $30,000 mostly use their phone to go online, compared with 27% of those living in households with an annual income of $75,000 or more.

 These are findings from a national telephone survey conducted April 17-May 19, 2013 among 2,252 adults ages 18 and over, including 1,127 interviews conducted on the respondent’s cell phone.

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