According to a recent report by the Pew Research Center, “Generations and Their Gadgets,” younger adults are leading the way in increased mobility, preferring laptops to desktops and using their cell phones for a variety of functions, including internet, email, music, games, and video. Cell phones are by far the most popular device among American adults, with 85% of adults owning cell phones, and 90% of all adults live in a household with at least one working cell phone.
Though cell phones are now ubiquitous in American homes, the level of engagement with the phones does vary widely between generations. The survey found that while roughly the same proportion of adults in the Millennial (ages 18-34) generation and Generation X (ages 35-46) 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.
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.
Almost half of adults own an iPod or other mp3 player. However, among the devices examined in this report, mp3 players saw the widest range in ownership rates between generations. While 74% of Millennials own an mp3 player, only 56% of members of Gen X do, and adoption rates continue to drop for each of the older generations.
Overall, 42% percent of all adults age 18 and older own a game console, and it is especially popular with members of the Millennial Generation and Generation X. Sixty-three percent of all adults ages 18-46 own a game console like an Xbox or Play Station. Overall, 5% of adults own an e-book reader, and 4% own an iPad or other tablet computer.
The youngest generation does not lead in all the gadgets studied. Gen X is also very similar to Millennials in ownership of certain devices, such as game consoles, and members of Gen X are also more likely than Millennials to own a desktop computer.
In terms of generations, Millennials are by far the most likely group not only to own most of the devices studied, but also to take advantage of a wider range of functions. Most cell phone owners only use two of the main non-voice functions on their phones: taking pictures and text messaging. Among Millennials, meanwhile, a majority use their phones also for going online, sending email, playing games, listening to music, and recording videos.
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.[Source: Zickuhr, Kathryn. “Generations and Gadgets.” Pew Internet & American Life Project. 3 Feb. 2011. Web. 23 Feb. 2011.]