Eighty-five percent of Americans age 18 and older own a cell phone, making it by far the most popular device among adults. Mobile phones are especially popular with adults under the age of 66, although the largest drop-off is for adults in the oldest generation (those age 75 and older), of whom 48% own a cell phone.
When asked further about the presence of mobile phones in their households, one-third (33%) of those who do not own a cell phone live in a household with at least one working mobile phone. This means that overall, 90% of all adults—including 62% of those age 75 and older—live in a household with at least one working cell phone.
As the proportion of households with at least one working cell phone rises, many are doing without a landline phone connection at all. In the first half of 2010, roughly one in four (25%) American adults lived in households that were “wireless only” in that they had at least one cell phone, but no landline. This includes more than half (51%) of young adults ages 25-29.
Though cell phones are now ubiquitous in American homes, the level of engagement with the phones does vary widely between generations. As shown in the above table, our May 2010 survey found that while roughly the same proportion of adults in the Millennial generation and Generation X own cell phones, Millennials are significantly more likely to use their phones for a variety of purposes. A majority of Millennials use their phones for taking photos, texting, going online, sending email, playing games, listening to music, and recording videos—making them significantly more likely than any other generation to engage in all of these activities.
In fact, the only two activities that are widely popular for all cell phone owners are taking pictures and sending text messages. Taking pictures is the most popular function on Americans’ phones, with more than half of all cell phone owners under the age of 75 using their phones for this purpose (only 16% of adults age 75 and older take photos with their phones). Text messaging, though also widely adopted, is less popular with adults over age 56.
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