Mobile Technology and Home Broadband 2019

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As the share of Americans who say they own a smartphone has increased dramatically over the past decade – from 35% in 2011 to 81% in 2019 – a new Pew Research Center survey finds that the way many people choose to go online is markedly different than in previous years. Some highlights:

  • Today, 37% of U.S. adults say they mostly use a smartphone when accessing the internet. This share has nearly doubled since 2013 (19%), when the Center last asked this question.
  • Mobile devices are not simply being used more often to go online – some Americans are forgoing traditional broadband at home altogether in favor of their smartphone. A majority of adults say they subscribe to home broadband, but about one-in-four (27%) do not. And growing shares of these non-adopters cite their mobile phone as a reason for not subscribing to these services.
    • Among non-broadband users, 45% say they do not have broadband at home because their smartphone lets them do everything they need to do online, up from 27% in 2015. At the same time, the share of non-broadband users who say their smartphone is the most important reason for not having a high-speed internet connection where they live has nearly doubled over the same time period (from 12% to 23%). And while affordability remains a commonly cited barrier, the share of non-broadband adopters who say the cost of a monthly subscription is the most important reason for not having these services has fallen from 33% in 2015 to 21% today. In addition, 80% of these non-broadband users say they are not interested in getting high-speed connections at home.
  • Compared with smartphone ownership, there are more pronounced variations in broadband adoption across demographic groups. For example, 92% of adults from households earning $75,000 or more a year say they have broadband internet at home, but that share falls to 56% among those whose annual household income falls below $30,000. That 36-point gap in broadband adoption between the highest- and lowest-income groups is substantially larger than the 24-point gap in smartphone ownership between these groups. Educational differences follow a nearly identical pattern.

These patterns underscore the reliance that a minority of Americans have on their smartphone for internet access. Some 17% of U.S. adults are “smartphone-only internet users” – meaning they report owning a smartphone but do not have a traditional high-speed internet connection where they live. This share has roughly doubled since 2013, when 8% of adults fell into this category.

Mobile Technology and Home Broadband 2019 Pew: Mobile Broadband Users Double Since 2013 (B&C)