Generations and Gadgets

A recent Pew study surveyed more than 3,000 American adults towards the end of 2010 to identify generations and their gadgets.

Many devices have become popular across the generations:

  • A majority of adults now own mobile phones, laptops and desktop computers
  • Younger adults lead the way in preferring laptops to desktops and using their mobile phones for internet browsing and search, email, music, games and video.

While the results aren’t terribly surprising, they reinforce the declining popularity of the Desktop PC as the prime source of digital engagement and highlight the trend towards transmedia consumption patterns. What this means for brands is explained in my earlier post which answers the question, what is digital marketing?

The Pew study notes that overall, e-readers and tablets do not appeal to generations differently, frankly, it’s still early too tell with these devices. Millennials (18-to-34 year olds) are most likely to own all of the electronic items according to the study.

Here are some notable highlights from the survey:

  • Mobile phones are the most popular device among American adults. 85% of adults own mobile phones, and 90% of all adults—including 62% of those age 75 and older—live in a household with at least one working mobile phone.
  • Desktop computers are most popular with adults ages 35-65, and Millennials are the only generation that is more likely to own a laptop computer or netbook than a desktop: 70% own a laptop, compared with 57% who own a desktop.
  • Almost half of all adults own an iPod or other mp3 player, but these are still most popular with Millennials—74% of adults ages 18-34 own an mp3 player, compared with only 56% of the next oldest generation, Gen X (ages 35-46).
  • Game consoles are uniformly popular with all adults ages 18-46, 63% of whom own these devices.
  • Overall, 5% of adults own an e-book reader, and 4% own an iPad or other tablet computer.

Additionally, about one in 11 (9%) adults do not own any of the devices asked about in the study, including 43% of adults age 75 and older.

A separate study recently found that smartphones outsold PCs for the first in history last quarter, and projections say this trend will continue.   For more information on how we use mobile phones and smartphones take a look at this post on how we use mobile phones.

The infographic below neatly sums up some of the detail in the Pew study:

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