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Majority of Baby Boomers Now Own Smartphones

Younger baby boomers do a variety of activities on device

December 23, 2016 | Demographics | Mobile

Smartphone ownership among baby boomers continues to grow, but boomers are still much less likely than millennials and Gen Xers to own such a device. eMarketer forecasts that only 60.7% of baby boomers—adults born between 1946 and 1964—will own a smartphone this year, while 83.0% of Gen Xers and 90.0% of millennials will do so. But an AARP study shows younger baby boomers are more likely to own such a device, and to do many activities with it.

Devices Owned by US Baby Boomers/Seniors, by Age, July 2016 (% of respondents in each group)

A July 2016 survey from AARP found that while baby boomers as a whole do lag in smartphone penetration, there’s a big difference between older and younger boomers in how likely they are to own a smartphone.

According to AARP, 73% of 50- to 59-year-olds own a smartphone, compared to just 54% of 60- to 69-year-olds who do so. Adults 50 to 59 are more likely to own a smartphone than any other device included in the survey, with smartphones surpassing laptop ownership by 5 percentage points. Meanwhile, adults 60 to 69 are just as likely to own a laptop or desktop as they are a smartphone.

Age also plays a major role in how baby boomers use their smartphones. AARP found that most smartphone owners 50 to 59 performed common activities such as checking email, getting directions, browsing the internet and finding news on their smartphones. In addition, more than half also used their smartphones to play a game, make a purchase and shop for deals. Smartphone owners 60 and older were less likely to turn to their devices for this range of activities.

Smartphone Activities Conducted by US Baby Boomer/Senior Smartphone Owners, by Age, July 2016 (% of respondents in each group)

As eMarketer analyst Mark Dolliver explained, “It’s not as though older boomers are utter techno-phobes. It’s just human nature to lose interest in adopting new technologies as one gets to be certifiably old—and that's where the older boomers are now.

“Their smartphone penetration will continue to rise, if only because it’ll become harder to find a mere feature phone. But the ways in which they use a smartphone are unlikely to ever catch up with what younger generations—even younger boomers—are doing. ”

—Alison McCarthy

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