updated 06:55 pm EDT, Mon July 11, 2011
Pew reveals many use smartphone as only access
Pew Internet in a new study on Monday revealed that a full quarter of American smartphone owners use the device as their main Internet source. The tally leaves 10 percent of all US cellphone owners more dependent on their phones than a computer to get online. About a third of those have no home broadband at all, leaving them either partly or completely dependent on the phone to get online.
Exactly one third of cellphone owners in the country have a smartphone, although the ownership rate might be higher: 39 percent claim to be using a smartphone platform. Some may either not think of their device as a smartphone, such as the messaging-focused BlackBerry, or don't know what OS the device runs. About 13 percent can't properly identify their phones and only go by the manufacturer or the carrier.
Although trends are changing, Pew's user base share largely lined up with that from Nielsen and others. Android is in front with 35 percent of the smartphone base and 15 percent of all US phones. The iPhone here is tied with the BlackBerry for 24 percent each of smartphones and 10 percent in cellphones. HP/Palm has about six percent of smartphones and two percent of cellphones, while Microsoft's Windows Mobile and Windows Phone combined have four percent of phones and again two percent of all cellphones.
The discrepancy in share ownership claims may again stem from those confused about their platform and whether the phone qualifies as a smartphone.
Device ownership was split heavily not just across finances but age and ethnicity. Android was the most common among younger adults and a wide spread of black people. BlackBerry and iPhone owners were overall more successful regardless of the cultural background, either having completed a college degree, reached high income levels, or both.
Smartphone owners were more likely to have a wide spread of technology. They were more likely to have a computer of some kind but also nearly twice as likely as a basic cellphone owner to have a dedicated MP3 player, even with the overlap. The difference was more pronounced for newer categories. About 20 percent of smartphone owners have an e-reader like a Kindle or Nook, while 18 percent have an iPad or another tablet.
The data on computer-free smartphone use may help underscore Apple's desire to add the feature in iOS 5. Developing countries like China and India are the most likely to go without a computer, but Pew's data shows that even a substantial part of the US may either seldom use their home computers or go without one in the first place. Android has had an advantage in this area for a long time through its inherent emphasis on Google's cloud, but Apple's new emphases on computer-free setup, iCloud, and iTunes in the Cloud may improve its appeal to those who rarely if ever considered syncing with a traditional computer.