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.

The age of distracted viewing

Half of all cell phone owners use their devices while watching TV, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. Owners use their phones to engage with content, avoid advertising or interact with others. The report is based on a survey of 2,254 adults via landline and mobile phones.

The numbers drop dramatically with the increase in an owner’s age.

First the general stats. Of the 88% of American adults who own cell phones:

  • 38% use their phone to keep themselves occupied during commercials or breaks in something they are watching
  • 22% check whether something they’ve heard on television is true or not
  • 6% use their phones to vote for reality show contestants.

“Taken together, that works out to 52% of all adult cell owners who are ‘connected viewers’—meaning they took part in at least one of these activities in the 30 days preceding our survey,” the center reports.

A deeper dive into the numbers shows that as you age, you are less likely to use a mobile phone while watching TV:

  • While 81% of mobile phone owners in the 18-24 age bracket use their phone while watching TV, only 29% of those aged 55-64 and 16% of adults over age 65 multitask.
  • 73% of the 18-24 crowd uses phones to distract themselves during commercials while the numbers for the two older groups drop to 16% and 9%, respectively.
  • 45% of the 18-24 cohort uses the phone to fact check TV content while, in the two older groups, those numbers plummet to 8% and 4%, respectively.
  • Only 1% of adults over age 65 see what others are saying online about the program they’re watching. The figure rises to 28% for the youngest age group.

The numbers are similar for owners who use their mobile devices to interact with friends or contribute thoughts about televised content. In the 18-24 group, 28% post comments, 43% exchange test messages with others watching the same program and 7% vote for a reality show contestant. Compare that with adults over age 65, who rarely post comments (1%), seldom exchange text messages with other viewers (4%) and don’t vote for contestants (3%).

What does that say about engagement among older viewers? Are they too old fashioned to use new devices or do they have longer attention spans? Are they less inquisitive or more patient? What do you think?

Jeff Widmer

Access all areas

Smartphones are replacing computers as our primary Internet devices.

More than half of American cell phone owners use their devices to access the Internet, according to a report issued this week by the Pew Research Center. That’s a big jump from the 31 percent of cell owners who said they used their phones to go online in April of 2009.

Nearly a fifth of cell phone users said they do most of their online browsing on their phone. The rapid adoption of the smartphone as a primary research and entertainment tool comes at the expense of other less-mobile devices such as desktop and notebook computers.

Why are people shifting their Internet portal to cell phones? The phones are convenient and always available. They fill access gaps and better fit people’s usage habits, the center reports.

The center conducted the national telephone survey this March and April. It included 2,254 adults age 18 and over, with 903 interviews conducted on the respondent’s cell phone.

Jeff Widmer