Our phones are getting faster each year, screens are getting bigger, apps are getting better, calls and texts are getting cheaper. Internet connections are also speeding up, both though cellular networks and available Wi-Fi networks. That’s good news for the 91% of American adults having cell phones. A little more than half of those are smartphones. How we use our phones is the reason behind this revolution. According to Pew, 21% of phone owners use their cellphone as their primary way of accessing the Internet.
Either because they lack broadband at home, or because they have few options for online access other than their cell phone. Whatever be the reason, the facts are for all of us to see. But it’s not just smartphone penetration that’s on the rise. Consumers are also spending more time using them, as time spent using smartphones now exceeds web usage on computers in the US.
Pew Research has found that 10% of Americans own a smartphone but do not have any other form of high-speed internet access at home beyond their phone’s data plan. Using a broader measure of the access options available to them, 15% of Americans own a smartphone but say that they have a limited number of ways to get online other than their cell phone.
So what activities are keeping consumers’ fingers glued to their smartphone screens? Consumer usage of phones is rapidly shifting toward increased screen time with entertainment and social media. Apps make up the highest share of time spent using smartphones, led by the growth in time spent using apps for entertainment and media. In fact, the majority of Americans’ time with apps is spent playing games (18%), accessing entertainment (15%), or using social media (29%).
Usage is higher among younger adults, minorities and those with low household incomes and levels of educational attainment. The government provides free phone with free minutes and texts to eligible individual under lifeline program. These segments rely on smartphones for online access at elevated levels. 15% of Americans ages 18-29 are heavily dependent on a smartphone for online access. On the other hand 13% of Americans with an annual household income of less than $30,000 per year are smartphone-dependent. Just 1% of Americans from households earning more than $75,000 per year rely on their smartphones to a similar degree for online access.
Good thing is that the traditional phone functions are still important, with smartphone time split between text messages (9% of total smartphone time), the phone dialer (3%), and address books (2%) among U.S. Android users. However, smartphones are beginning to transform how we engage in our everyday lives, and we are changing with it.