The age of the feature phone, at least in the U.S., is slowly coming to an end. According to the latest data from market research firm Nielsen, smartphone penetration in the U.S. stood at 48% in January. That's up from 44% just a month earlier and up 17% from a year ago. Those numbers alone already show a pretty clear trend away from feature phones and towards more sophisticated devices. Nielsen, however, also took a look at how age and income influence consumers' choices in phones and there the story becomes even clearer.
Among those in the 24-34 age group, smartphone penetration is actually closer to 66%. Overall penetration is lower among other age groups, but looking at the choices of those who bought their phones over the last 3 months, there is a clear trend: 69% of those who recently bought a phone bought a smartphone. Among younger consumers (18-34), that number is closer to 80%.
There are, however, also significant differences between income groups. Unsurprisingly, those making over $100k are more likely to own a smartphone (which generally comes with more expensive rate plans) than those making $15k or less. This trend, too, holds true among age groups, though even the most affluent of those over 65 only choose a smartphone 38% of the time. What's interesting about this group, though, is that the difference between the more affluent and those with lower incomes is more pronounced that in any other age group. It's also worth noting, though, that 18 to 34 year olds making $15k or less are still more likely to own a smartphone than the most affluent seniors.