For Gen Y, Smartphones Are Necessities

For Gen Y, Smartphones Are Necessities

People are replacing TVs, stereos and more with smartphones, a new study finds, as mobile technology increasingly becomes a necessity across all age groups and income levels.

Research firm Nielsen found around 48 percent of the U.S. population own smartphones, particularly people younger than 34. Even those making less than $15,000 per year are likely to own a smartphone, especially if they’re between the ages of 18 and 24.

Smartphones don’t come cheap, but the study proves they are no longer a luxury item. In fact, as mobile devices become more prevalent and prices come down, smartphones could even be a cost-effective solution for those in lower-income brackets.

Americans are increasingly tied to their mobile devices. Previous studies showed smartphones and social networking sites like Facebook can become as addictive as cigarettes, and mobile devices are invaluable to the growing number of daily commuters. Accordingly, smartphone makers are integrating dozens of new services into each new model to keep users staring at their screens.

Portable smartphones can replace the need for a home phone or land line, and allow users to stream TV shows, movies and music to their phones. A growing number of mobile-friendly apps also let users upload photos, connect with friends via social networking, even find jobs and dates, perhaps replacing desktop computers and bulkier laptops along with the need for subscriber Internet service at home.

But don’t expect prices to plummet just yet. Older age groups are only more likely to own a smartphone as their income levels rise, with those making more than $100,000 per year most likely to buy one. Younger generations seem focused on technology and are willing to pay a higher price regardless of their income, but older generations seem willing to pay for advanced devices only if they have the extra money to do so.

Still, the home phone and land line industry is rapidly losing customers to cell phones, smartphones, and video calling services like Skype, and the cable TV industry is experiencing lag due to the rise of “cord-cutters,” who replace their subscriber cable with streaming services like Netflix for home entertainment. The PC industry has also taken a hit as tablet devices take off, although it is attempting to regain traction with a slew of ultrabook models rolling out this year. As economic power shifts to the next generation, the number of industries disrupted by mobile devices will continue to rise.

The Nielsen study implies smartphones are speeding up those processes, and as the youth demographic ages and becomes home owners and heads-of-households, mobile devices could further infiltrate the home computer market.

However, the growing dependence on mobile devices for entertainment, communication, social networking and other uses will likely tax networks with increased data traffic, making the challenge of expanding airwaves for carriers more acute. The industry has slowly expanded its allocation of spectrum and is boosting high-speed service as a whole, but the rate of adoption of smartphones among younger consumers could put pressure on these efforts.

Either way, mobile technology is here to stay, and carriers and cable companies will likely take notice of the growing number of customers that want fast, capable smartphones they can take anywhere to perform just about any task.

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