Americans using technology: smartphones and city kids versus old folks in the country

How do Americans use technology?

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 Pew gives us another excellent and useful report.

Here are some highlights from my reading, as I snuck glimpses during and returning from the EDUCAUSE 2015 conference:

The device mix: some are rising, while others have reached a plateau, and some decline.  Cellphone and smartphones are the stars, as ownership keeps on rising to something close to ubiquity.  “Roughly nine-in-ten American adults (92%) own a mobile phone of some kind.”

Device ownership, Pew

The number of tablets has plateaued (“Ownership, however, is statistically the same as it was in 2014”).  Portable game devices reached a similar plateau (“Some 14% of U.S. adults have a portable gaming device such as a PSP or Sega Genesis game player, similar to the share who owned one in 2009”).  Computer game console players have also stabilized: “Game console ownership has remained consistent since Pew Research last polled about the device in 2010.”*  More importantly than any device besides phones**, PCs, too, have reached a steady state:

Some 73% of U.S. adults own a desktop or laptop computer. This figure has fluctuated a bit in Pew Research findings over the years, but the 2015 finding is roughly similar to computer ownership levels of a decade ago – though slightly down from a high in 2012, when 80% of Americans said they had a desktop or laptop.

Ereaders are declining:

Some 19% of adults report owning an e-reader – a handheld device such as a Kindle or Nook primarily used for reading e-books. This is a sizable drop from early 2014, when 32% of adults owned this type of device.

Who owns devices? The younger, the richer, the urban, and the better-educated the person, the more likely they are to have more machines.  Gender and race have little impact, generally.  Instead, it’s age and education that are especially important:

Only those ages 65 and older (30% of whom own smartphones) and those who do not have a high school education (41% own smartphones) fall below majority ownership.

For example, on game players and age, a very sharp divide:

Game console ownership by age

Or consider smartphones, where the differences by age, education, rural/urban, and class really shine:

Smartphone ownership, by Pew

What does this tell us in education?

Mobile phones are where the action is.

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 We need to make sure mobile strategies are not just in place, or being debated, but are thoroughly in motion.

Tablets are less important than we thought.

Remember the important demographics: class; age; urban versus rural location; education.  This is a powerful way to look into how different populations experience technology, from high school teenagers to senior administrators.

The device mix is fairly stable, across many categories.  Single-purpose machines (ereaders, mp3 players) are on the way out.

When we look ahead to the next great phase of technology, maybe the age of disintegrated computing, we need to bear in mind these great stable platforms and the demographics of change.

*Are games significant?  Here’s one datapoint for one device: “Today, 40% of adults report having a game console such as an Xbox or PlayStation.

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”    And remember that number has been constant for a while.

**”Computers are the next-most popular device [after mobile phones] among those measured.”

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4 Responses to Americans using technology: smartphones and city kids versus old folks in the country

  1. Joy Pixley says:

    Well, yes and no on the phones. I was just having a related conversation at a tech/energy workshop. The number they gave was that 58% of people have mobile phones, although I don’t know the sample parameters. However, something like only half of them actually use any apps on those phones — they’re just using them for calls, texts, and emails. Of course, now I can’t find the link for that (sorry Bryan), but it’s something I’d recommend looking into before relying on students (or teachers) using apps on their phones. I’d guess that most traditionally-aged college students are familiar with using a wide range of mobile apps, but not all of them, and maybe not their older peers.

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