Nearly Two-Thirds of Americans Own Smartphones

19% of Americans rely to some extent on a smartphone for accessing online information and for staying connected—either because they lack broadband at home, or because they have few other options for online access.

WASHINGTON — (April 1, 2015) – – Fully 64% of American adults own a smartphone, up from 35% in 2011, according to a new report that examines the role smartphones play in helping Americans access, share and create information and communicate with others. The report was produced by the Pew Research Center in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

As smartphone ownership has grown, many Americans now depend on their mobile devices for access to online services and information. The survey finds that 10% of Americans own a smartphone but do not have broadband at home, and 15% own a smartphone but say that they have a limited number of options for going online aside from their cell phone. In all, 19% of American adults indicate that at least one of those conditions applies to them—and 7% say that both apply. Among the groups that are most heavily “smartphone-dependent”:

·       Young adults: 15% of Americans ages 18-29 are heavily dependent on a smartphone for online access.

·       Those with low household incomes and levels of educational attainment: 13% of those 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 extent for online access.

·       Non-whites: 12% of African Americans and 13% of Latinos are smartphone-dependent, compared with 4% of whites.

Yet even as smartphones play an important role in providing online access, owners can face challenges when it comes to maintaining their service. Some 23% of smartphone owners have had to cancel or suspend their service for a period of time because the cost was a financial hardship, 15% “frequently” reach the maximum amount of data allowed on their plan, and 7% “frequently” experience substantially higher-than-expected monthly bills.

“The connections to online resources that smartphones facilitate are often most tenuous for those users who rely on those connections the most,” said Aaron Smith, a senior researcher at Pew Research Center. “A substantial minority of Americans indicate that their phone plays a central role in their ability to access digital services and online content, but for many users this access may not be available when they need it due to financial stresses or technical constraints.”

“The growing use of smartphones to access and share information holds tremendous opportunities for news organizations and other content creators to develop new, mobile-friendly ways of capturing audience attention and getting people the information they need,” said Jon Sotsky, Knight Foundation director for strategy and assessment. “At the same time, the report reveals that ensuring open and easy access to mobile technology is essential to building more informed communities.”

The study also finds that users are turning to their smartphones to navigate a wide range of life events:

·       62% of smartphone owners have used their phone in the past year to look up information about a health condition.

·       57% have used their phone to do online banking.

·       44% have used their phone to look up real estate listings or other information about a place to live.

·       43% to look up information about a job.

·       40% to look up government services or information.

·       30% to take a class or get educational content.

·       18% to submit a job application.

The survey also finds that a substantial number of smartphone owners use their phone to follow along with news events near and far, to share details of local happenings with others, and to navigate the world around them:

·       68% of smartphone owners use their phone at least occasionally to follow along with breaking news events, with 33% saying that they do this “frequently.”

·       67% use their phone to share pictures, videos, or commentary about events happening in their community, with 35% doing so frequently.

·       56% use their phone at least occasionally to learn about community events or activities, with 18% doing this “frequently.”

·       67% of smartphone owners use their phone at least occasionally for turn-by-turn navigation while driving, with 31% saying that they do this “frequently.”

·       25% use their phone at least occasionally to get public transit information, with 10% doing this “frequently.”

In addition to the surveys of smartphone owners that form the main findings of the report, Pew Research Center also conducted a week-long “experience sampling” survey of smartphone owners that offers new insights into how they interact with their mobile devices on a day-to-day basis. Main findings include:

·       97% of smartphone owners used text messaging at least once over the course of the study period, making it the most widely-used basic feature or app.

·       Younger smartphone owners are especially avid users of text messaging, yet 93% of smartphone owners ages 18-29 used voice or video calling on at least one occasion during the study period.

·       88% of smartphone owners used email on their phone at least once over the course of the study period, making email a more widely-used smartphone feature than social networking, watching video, or using maps and navigation, among others.

·       79% of smartphone owners reported feeling “productive” thanks to their phone at least once during the study period, with 77% reporting that their phone made them feel “happy.” In contrast, 57% of smartphone owners reported feeling “distracted” thanks to their phone, and 36% reported that their phone made them feel “frustrated.”

The report is based on telephone surveys conducted December 4-7 and 18-21, 2014 among 2,002 adults; the October wave of the American Trends Panel, conducted October 3-27, 2014 among 3,181 respondents, including 2,188 smartphone owners; and the American Trends Panel “experience sampling” survey, conducted November 10-16, 2014 among 1,635 smartphone owners.

The main survey report is available at

The methodology used in the “experience sampling” survey is outlined in greater detailed in a companion report available at

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Dana Page at 202.419.4372 or [email protected].

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan “fact tank” that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It does not take policy positions. The center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. This report was made possible by The Pew Charitable Trusts, which received support for the project from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.



Dana Page, 202.419.4372, [email protected]

Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677, [email protected]