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Charting America's Obsession With Gadgets

Tyler Durden's picture


Can't go to bed without first spending 10 minutes on and then sleeping next to your smart, or cell, phone? You are not alone. According to a recent Pew study, America has never been more wired, or rather, unwired to some form of constant form of telecommunications. Among the findings: 91% of all American adults have a cell phone, with this number rising if one is male (93%), black non-Hispanic (93%), is between 18-29 (97%), college graduated (95%), lives in a city (92%), and makes over $75,000 (98%). But that's just the tip of the iceberg. As the chart below shows, Americans have never owned more, or had a broader selection of gadgets to chose from, than they do now.

Some additional findings:

  • 56% of American adults have a smartphone
  • 28% of cell owners own an Android; 25% own an iPhone; 4% own a Blackberry
  • 24% of Americans ages 16 and older own an e-reader
  • 35% of Americans ages 16 and older own a tablet computer
  • 67% of cell owners find themselves checking their phone for messages, alerts, or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating.
  • 44% of cell owners have slept with their phone next to their bed because they wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any calls, text messages, or other updates during the night.
  • 29% of cell owners describe their cell phone as “something they can’t imagine living without."
  • 34% of cell internet users go online mostly using their phones, and not using some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer.
  • 74% of adult smartphone owners ages 18 and older say they use their phone to get directions or other information based on their current location.
  • Among adult social media users ages 18 and older, 30% say that at least one of their accounts is currently set up to include their location in their posts.
  • 12% of adult smartphone owners say they use a geosocial service to “check in” to certain locations or share their location with friends, down from 18% in early 2012.
  • Among these geosocial service users, 39% say they check into places on Facebook, 18% say they use Foursquare, and 14% say they use Google Plus, among other services.
  • Coordinate a meeting or get-together -- 41% of cell phone owners have done this in the past 30 days.
  • Solve an unexpected problem that they or someone else had encountered -- 35% have used their phones to do this in the past 30 days.
  • Decide whether to visit a business, such as a restaurant -- 30% have used their phone to do this in the past 30 days.
  • Find information to help settle an argument they were having -- 27% haveused their phone to get information for that reason in the past 30 days.
  • Look up a score of a sporting event -- 23% have used their phone to do that in the past 30 days.
  • Get up-to-the-minute traffic or public transit information to find the fastest way to get somewhere -- 20% have used their phone to get that kind of information in the past 30 days.
  • Get help in an emergency situation -- 19% have used their phone to do that in the past 30 days.

And in table format - The demographic breakdown of cell and smartphone owners (May 2013):

Cell and smartphone ownership demographics


How Americans use their cell phones (activities):

Cell phone activties


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Fri, 12/27/2013 - 15:14 | Link to Comment superflex
superflex's picture

$75,000 per month?

Sign me up.

Looks like a typo according to the charts.

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 15:13 | Link to Comment A Lunatic
A Lunatic's picture

None of those apply to me, and it is going to stay that way.........

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 15:16 | Link to Comment maskone909
maskone909's picture

everyone gets a homework assignment.  leave your phone at home and go pick a fight with a complete stranger.  only you will lose this fight.  on purpose.

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 15:18 | Link to Comment NOTaREALmerican
NOTaREALmerican's picture

Surprised the smart phone percentages are so low.   

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 16:24 | Link to Comment 666
666's picture

In the chart showing How Americans use their cell phones (activities):, I couldn't help but notice no one seems to make a plain ol' phone call with their cellphone.


Fri, 12/27/2013 - 15:19 | Link to Comment Tinky
Tinky's picture

What better way to chart and view America's obsession with gadgets than with gadgets?

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 15:21 | Link to Comment seek
seek's picture

I downgraded from the NSA super spy phone (smartphone) to the NSA mostly spy phone (plain phone) and I "forget" it all the freaking time now.

Unfortunately in my area cell phones have taken over all the capital investment so the wireline phone service is virtually unusable (50 year old wires with no intention to be replaced) so cell is the only real option. The only thing they'll know for sure is I'm home when I answer it, but nothing else.

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 19:40 | Link to Comment Prometheus418
Prometheus418's picture

If you can get a decent internet connection, there ya go.

We have a landline at home, and I have a landline at work- no cellphones.  But neither of those landlines run on the old telephone system- both are VoIP.  I don't actually know what the work line costs, but my home # is $30 a year.  That being said, my $30 a year home line (MagicJack) is only marginal when it comes to call quality.  The work line is clear as anything you could want, though.

I had a cell phone a year ago- hell, we had three of them.  One for myself, one for my wife, and one for our oldest daughter.  It was ok until I upgraded them to stupid phones, and AT&T started charging me for everything a phone did- what was $75 a month for unlimited access to the internet with smart-enough phones ballooned to almost $200 a month with usage caps and tethering blocked.  So they're gone now, and good riddance.

They only seem crucial when you have one.  Once the little bastard is gone, it's actually kind of a relief.  I keep an Overdrive Pro and a top-up card in my briefcase that I can use if I need to make an emergency call using my laptop and Skype account, but so far it really has never been needed.

Guess I should note that I'm not a part of the caveman brigade.  We have 3 towers, one server, 4 laptops and a tablet here, with a 100mb/sec internet connection.  I also have a small wireless mesh network that I set up just for shits and grins.  But I do hate spending money and being told what to do, so all the aforementioned appliances are running Linux.

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 15:27 | Link to Comment billwilson
billwilson's picture

Well count me as an outlier. No cell phone, no TV, no game box, no apple devices ... life is sweet if you turn off the distractions (ZH being one of my remaining few).

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 15:28 | Link to Comment hedgeless_horseman
hedgeless_horseman's picture



Coming soon!

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 15:43 | Link to Comment akak
akak's picture

"My Martian gaydar is receiving a strong signal from South Carolina .... a very strong signal .... yes, it's definitely picking up Lindsey Graham."

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 16:08 | Link to Comment akak
akak's picture

No cell phone for me now, no cell phone EVER!

If and when I desire to have the NSA track me around the clock, while paying dearly for the priviledge of allowing them to do so while simultaneously eroding my social skills and fundamental civility while out in public, then I will implant the NWO chip in my forehead and be done with it.

And as for the vast majority of you with 'necessary' cell phones (which means most of you reading this as well), you are merely displaying your underlying follow-the-herd mentalities and buying into the consumerist mantra of "must have", and thereby showing your sheepleness, at least in this particular regard.  I actually manage my own business and yet do and live just fine with just one landline.  Why should I want to be at the beck and call of EVERYONE ELSE at EVERY moment of my life?  If you ask me, that is one fucked-up and pathetic way to live. 

Oh, and cell phone owners, PLEASE don't give me the bullshit about how YOU saved somebody's life by having a cell phone on the highway one day!  I know, I know, your trendsucking has made all of you "heros", LOL.

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 15:39 | Link to Comment Conax
Conax's picture

Do pistols count as gadgets?  Guilty as charged.

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 15:36 | Link to Comment bart12
bart12's picture

When you see people get some addicted to their smartphones, video games and internet porn, you know the time has come. Mindless serf keep on getting poorer and more brainwashed by getting themselves scuked into these matrix via all these 3C (communication,computer,consumer electronic) devices! When I was young, I read some science fiction story that said the end of human civilization will happen when the robot rise. Now I begin to think the human civilization will end when they get sucked into gigantic matrix and become part of machines, the robot won't even need to fire a single laser gun.

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 16:02 | Link to Comment insanelysane
insanelysane's picture

I have a couple of teenagers and some young adults and I always argue with other parents when they say how smart Johnny and Sally are going to be because they use technology all of the time.  Really, you think your kid is acquiring some great skill that will set them apart?  They are playing the same crap as every other kid.

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 15:42 | Link to Comment CheapBastard
CheapBastard's picture

I bought more FCX instead of a gadget. Most miners are too low ...too tempting.

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 15:43 | Link to Comment sangell
sangell's picture

Does having an "Obamaphone" really count as 'owning' a phone?

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 16:08 | Link to Comment Kprime
Kprime's picture

can't wait till obamacare subsidizes Nikes, cause running has it's health benefits and the nightly run from your B&E cuts down on obesity.

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 16:09 | Link to Comment TheFourthStooge-ing
TheFourthStooge-ing's picture


Does having an "Obamaphone" really count as 'owning' a phone?

No, but like all other "smart" phones, it counts as being owned by a phone.

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 16:11 | Link to Comment akak
akak's picture


No, but like all other "smart" phones, it counts as being owned by a phone.

Ah, ah, you have bitten the crustiest nib of the mattering thing here with upping vigor.

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 16:13 | Link to Comment TheFourthStooge-ing
TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

When the mattering point is crustiest, it must be hammered to repeation.

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 16:24 | Link to Comment akak
akak's picture

But hey, when matteringness is the point of the throating of the mind in orders to avoid the offuscationalizing of the symmetrical algebraic coconuttery, too many repeations are never enough.

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 16:58 | Link to Comment TheFourthStooge-ing
TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

Alas, alas, three dimensional GPS metadata alas, the "smart" phone bambuzzlement is really thick. Better to swallow the marketing progandizemention that cell phoniness is liberating than to speech the observement that it is a digital leash. And one needs a superhuman throat to swallow this kind of stuff.

Quite a hard fact to admit for US citizens who throat the idea they favor freedoms. But hey, it had to be this way, because jumping on every bandwagon is progress.

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 17:16 | Link to Comment akak
akak's picture

Indeedly, the eternal nature of US 'american' bandwagonism is part and package of the problem, more than and then some.  Ah, ah, the irony of the establishment progrational line of "You carry, we spy, you pay" being bitten hook, line and stinker by the sheepified US 'american' pubic!  Best yet, never less than that.

Just have to bear with it.

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 16:03 | Link to Comment Kprime
Kprime's picture

carried cell phones for 10 years.  ended up with smartphone.  I closed my verizon account last march.  Land line only.  Except for this laptop to surf the web, no more electronics in my home. 

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 16:07 | Link to Comment TrumpXVI
TrumpXVI's picture

I only have one of the gadgets on the chart; an mp3 player.  It's actually pretty useful.  My Prius has an mp3 jack and I hate commercially programmed music of any kind in the car.  But the best thing I use it for is hooked up with a mini speaker for when I do my free weight workout at home.  It's the best way I've found to program a list of iron pumping background music.  And it cost almost nothing; it's a Sandisk...ran me about $45 including the extra card.

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 17:01 | Link to Comment Conax
Conax's picture

Best give the kids their I gadgets-

They'll cut a bitch over that thing.

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 17:02 | Link to Comment Stuck on Zero
Stuck on Zero's picture

I don't own a smart phone.  My phone is so old it can't be tracked, infested with malware, or hijacked.



Fri, 12/27/2013 - 17:45 | Link to Comment Pseudonymous
Pseudonymous's picture

Looks like the cellphone bubble refuses to pop so many years after it had a parabolic rise. Hmmm.

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 17:59 | Link to Comment hairball48
hairball48's picture

I guess I'm a real caveman. I have 1ea old tower computer, a two year old laptop, and a "flip phone" mobile that only does phone calls--I had the text service turned off :)

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 18:26 | Link to Comment dizzyfingers
dizzyfingers's picture

A very old Tracfone rides around with me but never is on. I have it only in case of emergency on the road.

5-y/o desktop computer and 3 y/o laptop for travel, but no other electronic toys.

Do furnace and air conditioner count? Microwave to heat coffee?

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