In 1993 IBM launched Simon, the first phone containing smartphone capabilities. It took another year to be put out on the market by BellSouth, and then it was only sold in 15 US states for $899.
Why does this matter? Because less than 20 years later, 35% of all American adults with cellphones own a smartphone. This statistic comes from the Pew Internet Project, which conducted the “first standalone measure of smartphone ownership” in May. We now have increasing ability to be in people’s pockets through mobile advertising, mobile video and mobile apps on a daily basis.
Not only do people own smartphones with more frequency, but minorities’ and the younger generation in lower income households’ use of this tool is rising as well. Almost half (44%) of African Americans and Latinos use smartphones, as well as 39% of 18-29 year olds earning $30,000 or less.
Some of these lower income households can’t afford the Internet in their homes, but with smartphones they can access the web whenever they want – 25% of smartphone users do this, saying they mostly access the Internet from their phone, rather than a computer. Out of that 25%, about one-third of them are from these homes where they can’t afford the Internet, but can use their smartphones to access a world that was once limited to them.
When looking at household income as a whole, without breaking it down into age groups, the upper and middle class are more likely to own smartphones than low-income earners. Those earning $150,000 and more are three and a half times as likely as those earning $10,000 or less. This isn’t surprising or shocking, but it’s still encouraging to see the younger generation being part of the uptick in smartphone ownership regardless of income. These statistics show a brighter future for closing the digital divide.
This study also looked at the type of smartphone platforms most common and found that Android is at the top of this list, followed by iPhone and Blackberry devices. The communities that tend to use Android phones are younger adults and African Americans, while the latter two devices are found among college graduates and the wealthier class.
When looking at the word cloud provided by the study, some of the most mentions from smartphone owners are “great,” “satisfied,” “convenient,” “necessary,” and “useful.” All positive, all pointing towards how the smartphone has become a crucial part of life – something we all don’t want to (or can’t?) leave the house without.