Survey Uncovers "Substantial" Increase in Teen Smartphone Adoption

It's sometimes easy to forget that an unsubsidized smartphone can cost upwards of $600, especially when you see a group of giggling teens wielding around what are essentially handheld computers. Get used to that scene. According to a new survey, smartphone adoption among American teenagers is rising fast.

Pew Research Center pinged over 800 people between the age of 12 and 17. Out of that sample, 78 percent said they own a cell phone, and out of those, nearly half — 47 percent — own a smartphone. That puts smartphone adoption among teens at 37 percent, up from 23 percent in 2011.

Teens with Smartphones
Image Source: Flickr (Joris_Louwes)

"The nature of teens’ internet use has transformed dramatically — from stationary connections tied to shared desktops in the home to always-on connections that move with them throughout the day," said Mary Madden, Senior Researcher for the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project and co-author of the report. "In many ways, teens represent the leading edge of mobile connectivity, and the patterns of their technology use often signal future changes in the adult population."

Indeed, about three in four teens are "mobile Internet users" versus 55 percent of adults, though the numbers are a bit skewed. Pew Research Center says the gap is primarily driven by adults ages 65 and older, many of which are not using the Internet at all, let alone on a mobile device. Adults under the age of 50 are just as likely as teens to be a mobile Internet user.

Teens with highly educated parents and/or with parents in the highest income bracket are more likely to have cell phones. Interestingly, income levels are less predictable among smartphone-toting teens. For example, teens living in the lowest-earning households (under $30,000 per year) are just as likely to own a smartphone as those living in the highest-earning households ($75,000 or more), Pew Research Center stated in its report.