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Smartphone Owners Span Age Groups, Majority Of 55+ Own One

04/30/2014

For years, marketers seeking to boost mobile ad spending touted the smartphone audience as young and affluent to help make up for its lack of scale. But wide adoption of smartphones in the last couple of years has clearly broadened the demographic profile.

In that vein, new data released today by Nielsen on Tuesday indicates that a slim majority (51%) of mobile subscribers 55 and over in the U.S. now own smartphones, as of the first quarter. That’s up 10% from a year ago.  In fact, a majority of mobile users in all age groups for the first time have a smartphone, and seven out of 10 overall have one.

Keep in mind, Nielsen’s estimates on smartphone penetration have typically been more aggressive than others. The Pew Research Center, for example, found 58% of U.S. adults at the beginning of the year had smartphones, with 49% of those aged 50-64 owning one, and 19% of those 65 and over.

The Pew study, based on a January survey of 1,006 adults, found smartphone users still skew more affluent, with 61% having household income of $50,000 to $74,999. 

When it comes to the types of devices consumers favor, an average of 52% of smartphone owners in the U.S. used a handset running Google’s Android operating system. More than half of those phones were made by Samsung. Apple, however, is still the largest handset manufacturer, with 42% of smartphone owners packing an iPhone.

Trailing Apple and Samsung, which combined account for 70% of smartphone owners in the U.S. Rounding out the top five were LG (7%), Motorola (6.8%) and HTC (5.7%). Nokia had just 2%, but that represented a doubling of its market share from a year ago on the strength of sales of its Windows Phone-powered handsets.

Nielsen said that overall, 85% of people buying new handsets in the quarter bought a smartphone. The findings are based on Nielsen’s monthly survey of more than 20,000 mobile subscribers aged 13 and over in the U.S. 

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