It’s not just an assumption that “everyone has a smartphone” nowadays, because almost everyone does. According to the Pew Research Center, 81 percent of Americans own a smartphone, a steep increase from just 35 percent in 2011. But this marked growth has changed how Americans access the internet: 17 percent of adults exclusively surf the web using their smartphones, and nearly half (46 percent) mainly use their device to do so.

One of the reasons attributed to this change, according to Pew, is the rising cost in broadband services, with 27 percent of Americans opting out of a subscription. Of those who don’t subscribe to broadband, nearly half (45 percent) say it’s because their smartphone allows them to do everything they need online, and 80 percent are uninterested in having high-speed internet installed in their homes.

Through a national telephone survey of 1,502 Americans, Pew found the percentage of those who exclusively access the internet through their smartphones (17 percent) is reflective of all ages, though with a greater percentage of African Americans (23 percent) and Hispanics (25 percent) than Caucasians (12 percent). The majority of these users have a high school diploma or less (26 percent), 16 percent have “some college” and four percent have a college degree. Twenty-six percent have an annual income of less than $30,000, 15 percent have an income of $30,000-$74,999 and six percent earn $75,000 or more annually.

Accessing the internet via desktops, laptops and/or tablets, in general, has decreased. Thirty percent of Americans primarily access the internet using one or more of these three mediums, a drop from 53 percent in 2013, while 46 percent mainly use their smartphones to browse the web, up from 34 percent in 2013. Today, about one-fourth of smartphone users (23 percent) use both their smartphone and desktop, laptop and/or tablet to access the internet equally, up from 12 percent in 2013. Across the board, 60 percent of Americans ages 18-29 only use their smartphone to do so, followed by 51 percent for ages 30-49, 34 percent for ages 50-64 and 28 percent for age 65 and older.


Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.