US Smartphone Ownership Now Over 50% -- Pew

According to new data out this morning from Pew, the US mobile market has reached an important milestone: 50% smartphone owners. In fact Pew's survey data, which the polling firm says is representative of the US population, indicates 53% smartphone ownership.

By comparison, Nielsen says the number is 48% and comScore says it's 42%. Among select segments, however both Pew and Nielsen say smartphone penetration is considerably higher than 50%. According to Pew, for college graduates, 18-35 year olds and $75,000+ earners, smartphone ownership has crossed 60%. Nielsen says for some of those groups it's even higher (75%).

The graphic below is Nielsen's US smartphone ownership chart by age and income segment. For example, if those over age 55 are excluded from the sample, US smartphone penetration rises to roughly 75%. For people between the ages of 25 and 44 and making $100,000 or more per year, Nielsen says 77.5% own smartphones. 

SmartPhone_income-and-age

The Pew findings are qualified and explained, given potential consumer confusion over what qualifies as a smartphone: 

--45% of cell owners say that their phone is a smartphone, up from 33% in May 2011
--49% of cell owners say that their phone operates on a smartphone platform common to the US market, up from 39% in May 2011

Taken together, just over half of cell owners (53%) said yes to one or both of these questions and are classified as smartphone owners.

Tracking smartphone adoption and penetration was/is really a surrogate for other things: mobile Internet access -- people with smartphones behave differently than feature phone owners -- and the mobile ad opportunity. We should now collectively shift our focus to mobile operating system share (which people are obviously tracking) and mobile Internet adoption and frequency.