Tablets are for middle-aged people, smartphones are for 20-somethings

Photo by wilbertbaan

Photo by wilbertbaan

For the first time, a third of American adults own a tablet computer like an iPad, almost twice as many as the 18% who owned a tablet a year ago. So says the results of Pew Internet & American Life project’s just-released annual survey of tablet PC ownership.

One of the things that is especially interesting about tablet adoption compared to some of the patterns of other devices we’ve studied is how these technologies’ growth has played out between different age groups,” Research Analyst Kathryn Zickuhr said. “With smartphones, for instance, we’ve seen a very strong correlation with age where most younger adults own smartphones, regardless of income level. But when it comes to tablets, adults in their thirties and forties are now significantly more likely than any other age group to own this device.

The report is full of interesting details.

  • The proportion of US adults 18 and over who own a tablet PC nearly doubled in the past year, from 18% to 34%
  • Rich Americans are far more likely to own a tablet than the less affluent. Of those with household income greater than $75,000 a year, 56% own a tablet. People with a college degree are also tablet lovers: Nearly half of college graduates own a tablet (49%).
  • Adults in their late thirties and early forties have the highest rates of tablet ownership, whereas smartphones are most popular with younger adults ages 18-34, says Pew. Indeed, tablet ownership rates among adults age 35-44 is identical to tablet ownership rates among college graduates (49%).
  • Tablet preferences don’t cut along lines of gender, race or ethnicity: There are no “statistically significant” differences in tablet ownership rates between men and women, or across racial or ethnic groups. (That said, the women surveyed had a slightly higher tablet ownership rate than men: 35% of them own tablets, compared to 32% of men.)
  • 50% of parents with children living at home own tablets, compared to 27% of non-parents. A year ago, only 26% of parents owned tablets.