Mature Adults Dialed into Smartphones

Selling smartphones in Southwest Florida? You’ve come to the right place.

While the conventional wisdom says younger people adopt new technology faster than their older counterparts, research from measurement company Nielsen Holdings shows adoption is as much a function of income as age. And that puts the Gulf Coast of Florida smack in the middle of a one of the nation’s hottest trends.

“While overall smartphone penetration stood at 48% in January, those in the 25-34 age group showed the greatest proportion of smartphone ownership, with 66% saying they had a smartphone,” according to a Nielsen survey of more than 20,000 mobile consumers. “But age isn’t the only determinant of smartphone ownership. Income also plays a significant role. When age and income are both taken into account, older subscribers with higher incomes are more likely to have a smartphone. For example, those 55-64 making over 100K a year are almost as likely to have a smartphone as those in the 35-44 age bracket making 35-75K per year.”

Here’s how that works. According to the survey, 33% of people ages 55-64 own a smartphone, half of the rate of people ages 18-24 (62%). Consider income and the numbers change. For people who make more than $100,000 a year, 48% in the 55-64 bracket own a smartphone while 77% in the 18-24 group own a device. The gap narrows with users making between $75,000 and $100,000 a year, where 42% of the 55-64 year olds own a smartphone compared to 65% of their younger cohorts.

Those figures jibe with statistics from Sarasota County’s Department of Planning Services and Enterprise Florida. Sarasota is one of the oldest counties in the United States, with a median age of 52.5 (the U.S. median age is 37.2), according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Nearly 54% of the county’s 382,000 residents are over the age of 50. Sarasota County is also a relatively wealthy area. According to Census data nearly 20% of Sarasota County households had income of more than $100,000. The Census pegged median family income at $57,229, slightly lower than the national average but about 8% higher than the Florida figure.

While we don’t have numbers on smartphone penetration in Sarasota, it’s safe to say that despite conventional assumptions, mature adults on the Gulf Coast are dialed into the latest technology.

Getting smart about smartphone safety

Four in 10 smartphone users in the United States will click on an unsafe link on a mobile device this year, according to a new report by Lookout, a smartphone security firm. That figure will only continue to grow as the number of smartphone and tablet owners in the world hits a billion over the next few years, according to Forrester Research.

Unsafe links include those that download viruses, malware and spyware onto a user’s mobile device—the usual culprits most people have heard about. Lookout flags several more insidious methods used by hackers that are spreading from Eastern Europe and Russia, including attempts to tamper with legitimate mobile tools and advertising systems. “Five percent of free Android mobile applications contain one or more aggressive ad networks, which can access personal information or display confusing ads,” it says in the State of Mobile Security 2012. “In addition, a number of high-profile iOS applications raised red flags about privacy issues this year.”

Aggressive ad networks often push out-of-app ads, change browser settings and accessing personally identifiable information without suitable notification or transparency.

What can mobile users do to protect themselves? Several things, some physical, some virtual.

  • Set a password on your mobile device so that if it is lost or stolen, your data is more difficult to access.
  • Only download apps from trusted sources.
  • Beware of pirated apps that were once sold and now appear to be free.
  • Once you’ve clicked a link, pay attention to the address to ensure it matches the website it claims to be.
  • Check your phone for unexpected activity such as unusual text messages or suddenly decreased battery life.
  • Check your phone bill for unexpected charges.
  • Download and install firmware updates as soon as they are available.