Number of smartphone users in US skyrockets, but overreliance is a concern

2 Apr 2015

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Almost two-thirds of Americans now own a smartphone, up from 35pc back in 2011, however, some consumers are over reliant on the devices for internet access.

According to a new report from the Pew Research Centre, one in 10 Americans own smartphones but don’t have broadband internet at home, while 15pc of owners have limited online options beyond their smartphones.

Interestingly a lot of the findings came down along racial lines, with Latinos and African-Americans more likely to be reliant on smartphones than Caucasians.

Compared with smartphone owners who are less reliant on their mobile devices, these consumers are apparently less likely to own bank accounts, other computers, health insurance or property.

Financial hardship

“Nearly half (48pc) of smartphone-dependent Americans have had to cancel or shut off their cellphone service for a period of time because the cost of maintaining that service was a financial hardship,” reads the report.

Meanwhile almost a third of those smartphone-dependent consumers frequently reach their maximum data allowance. More than half say this happens on occasion, with these figures plummeting when people have greater access to broadband internet.

This follows on yesterday’s report that said the US broadband industry is highly uncompetitive, to the detriment of customers.

In a detailed report, the Centre for Public Integrity claimed the major providers of broadband operate in isolation of each other, rarely crossing paths and therefore enjoying the lion’s share of their locales.

This, in turn, hurts competition and sees prices positioned at a very high tariff.

“Analysis of internet prices in five US cities and five comparable French cities found that prices in the US were as much as 3.5 times higher than those in France for similar service.”

A growing use

This could, in part, explain the over reliance on smartphones amongst some in the US.

More than half of those surveyed for Pew’s report claimed to source news from their smartphone over the course of the week in question, while three-fifths have used the devices to learn more about health conditions.

What comes as a surprise is nearly one-fifth of Americans have applied for a job over their smartphones, with a higher percentage coming from those on lesser income.

“Smartphones help users navigate the world around them, from turn-by-turn driving directions to assistance with public transit. This is especially true for younger users,” reads the report.

People on smartphones via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt is senior communications and context executive at NDRC. He previously worked as a journalist with Silicon Republic.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com