Despite the competitive rush to bring high-speed Internet options like Google Fiber and AT&T GigaPower to market, millions of Americans don’t have broadband connections at home. That’s according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.
Specifically, 10 percent of Americans own smartphones, but don’t have broadband in their homes. And 15 percent own smartphones but say they have limited options for going online other than via their mobile devices. Seven percent of Americans own smartphones but have no easy way to access broadband.
“Today nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone, and 19 percent of Americans rely to some degree on a smartphone for accessing online services and information and for staying connected to the world around them -- either because they lack broadband at home, or because they have few options for online access other than their cell phone,” said Aaron Smith, one of the authors of Pew’s “U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015” report.
Smartphone Dependent Users
Broadband availability or not, not all smartphone users consume mobile Internet services in the same way. The study finds that certain groups of Americans rely on smartphones for online access at different levels.
For example, 15 percent of Americans ages 18-29 are “heavily dependent” on smartphones for online access. Meanwhile, 13 percent of Americans with annual household incomes of less than $30,000 per year are smartphone-dependent. By way of comparison, just 1 percent of Americans from households earning more than $75,000 a year rely on smartphones to a similar degree for online access.
“A lot of folks can't afford both a smartphone and a wired Internet service,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told us. “Since cell phones convey status and status is important they choose the cell phone. This is particularly true for newly independent young people.”
Along racial lines, 4 percent of whites are smartphone dependent. That compares with 12 percent of African-Americans and 13 percent of Latinos.
“Compared with smartphone owners who are less reliant on their mobile devices, these smartphone-dependent users are less likely to own some other type of computing device, less likely to have a bank account, less likely to be covered by health insurance, and more likely to rent or to live with a friend or family member rather than own their own home,” said Smith.
Beyond Social Media
While smartphones are often used for calling, texting, e-mail, social media and general Web browsing, the Pew report reveals plenty of other popular uses.
For example, 62 percent of smartphone owners have used their phones in the past year to look up information about particular health conditions. Fifty-seven percent have used their phones to do online banking and 44 percent to look up real estate listings or other information about places to live.
The Pew report also shows that 43 percent use their smartphones to find information about jobs, 40 percent search for government services or information, 30 percent use mobile devices to take classes or get educational content, and 18 percent use their smartphones to submit job applications.
“Lower-income smartphone owners are especially likely to use their phone during a job search,” Smith said. “Compared with smartphone owners from households earning $75,000 or more per year, those from households earning less than $30,000 annually are nearly twice as likely to use a smartphone to look for information about a job -- and more than four times as likely to use their phone to actually submit a job application.”