Smartphone adoption among older Americans continues growth spurt

US consumers aged 55 and older have been taking a cue from their younger peers and are now at the front of the queue in the adoption and use of mobile devices and services.

This is just one of several intriguing insights gleaned from the US edition of Deloitte’s 2017 Global Mobile Consumer Survey.

The category of 55-75-year-olds have now been exhibiting the strongest expansion in smartphone ownership for two years running. The three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in smartphone penetration in this age bracket is now at 7.91% – by a nose ahead of growth of 7.88% for 45-54-year-olds.

As might have been expected, the three-year rate of growth among 18-24 year-olds has been much more subdued (1.40%). The aggregate growth in smartphone ownership across all age brackets came in at 5.42%.

A total of 82% of Americans ages 18-75 now report owning or having ready access to a smartphone. For the youngest and oldest demographics, the shares were 93% and 67%, respectively.

Meanwhile, overall tablet adoption has soared from just 31% four years ago to double the figure this year.

What’s the use of … ?

In terms of daily use of their smartphones, people aged 55 and higher are reported as having “equivalent or higher frequency of use among any age group except those 18 to 24”.

And as far as smartwatches go, the oldest generation actually had the very highest rate of daily use, even though the greatest penetration of smartwatches is among 25-34-year-olds.

When it comes to the variety of data communication services available in smartphones, annual growth in usage have been observed across the board.

Text messages came top again, having been used by 91% of respondents at least once a week. Users were also found to be warming up to voice calls again, as this category (86%) is now on the rebound following four years of declines. Emails, social networks and video calls were also used weekly by an increasing share of users.

The number of times and the urgency with which users reach for their phones, along with the number of mobile apps that consumers install, have all largely stayed put as of late.

Overall, for the past three years, Americans have been found to check their mobiles some 47 times per day, the notable exception being the 18-24 age group, which did so 86 times a day (up from 82 times last year).

“All 264 million US smartphone users collectively look at their phones some 12 billion times a day!” notes the survey.

A total of 89% of users consult their phones within an hour of waking up, and 81% admitted to doing so in the hour before going to sleep.

Some three-quarters of users up to 34 years of age reported that they “definitely” or “probably” use their phone too much. Almost half (47 percent) of all ages said they make a conscious effort to pare back their mobile phone time, most commonly by keeping their devices in their bag or pocket or by switching off notifications.

Out with the old, in with the new

The survey has found that some two-thirds of consumers aim to upgrade their smartphones within two years. While noting the demise of subsidized contracts, Deloitte chalks up the persistent demand for new devices to two forces – phone carriers’ leasing and purchasing programs, which has effectively replaced the subsidies, and the “increasing utility” of the smartphone, as the device needs to be up-to-scratch in order to handle users’ demands in our “ultra-connected society”.

Notwithstanding the plans to shop around for a replacement, an increasing proportion of  consumers are finding more productive ways to utilize their previous phones, notably by “giving it to a family member or a friend”, instead of simply throwing their old mobiles away.

Care one iota about IoT?

Smartphone adoption

In sync with findings from earlier years, Deloitte observed increasing consumer openness to, and interest in, internet-connected things. This doesn’t come without a caveat, however, as a sizable portion of people report being aware of the possible perils of IoT devices.

“In terms of consumer interest, connected home systems—a category that includes home security, thermostats, and lighting—continue to lag behind other connected devices such as entertainment systems (e.g., game consoles, wireless TVs, etc.) and connected vehicles (route tracking, predictive maintenance, autonomous vehicles, etc.),” wrote Deloitte.

The company also noted an across-the-board increase in consumers’ willingness to pay for connected car and connected home services.

That said, the heightened interest in and willingness to pay for the convenience of connected devices was found to engender worries of security and privacy.


Over 40 percent of the consumers in the study maintain that smart home technology reveals too much about their personal lives and close to 40 percent are concerned that usage can be tracked, according to Deloitte. This sentiment echoes findings that emanated from an Accenture study and that, too, showed consumers’ concerns vis-à-vis IoT security.

“In addition, fewer than one in five consumers believe they are very well informed about the security risks associated with connected home devices; and nearly 40 percent believe they are not properly informed at all,” according to the study.

Notwithstanding the awareness of the need to keep a tight rein on their privacy and security, as many as 91 percent of those surveyed “willingly accept legal terms and conditions without reading them before installing apps, registering Wi-Fi hotspots, accepting updates, and signing on to online services such as video streaming”. With the two youngest groups, this acceptance rate climbed to 97 percent, Deloitte noted.

Despite trending upwards, the wariness of risks to privacy and security, along with self-reported excessive screen time, aren’t enough of a headwind to deter many consumers from diving into the uncharted waters of new technologies and services.

This year’s — the seventh — exploration into the mobile universe in the US collected input from 2,000 respondents, who hailed from six distinct age groups ranging from 18-75 years of age.

Author , ESET

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