Millennials Are The Largest Group Of Smartphone Owners, And Adoption Is Still Growing

Millennials, one of the largest generational groups in the U.S., on par with the Baby Boomers, are also the largest group of smartphone owners, says Nielsen in a report out today. And their adoption of the devices is still growing: by the second quarter of this year, 85% of those aged 18 to 24 owned a smartphone, and 86% of those aged 25 to 34 did.

That’s up from 77% and 80%, respectively, over the same time last year.

It’s worth also pointing out, on the eve of Apple’s big iPhone 6 reveal next week, that the smartphone in question is more likely to be an Android phone. Nielsen notes that over half (52%) of U.S. smartphones run Android, with Apple iOS accounting for a 42.7% share, and “other” OS’s (Windows Phone, Blackberry, etc.) making up the rest.

But while it didn’t break out the number of Millennials specifically who chose Android over iPhone, earlier research from comScore this year did. And it, too, found that Android dominated, with half of Millennials using Android, and 44% on the iPhone. Though neither report speculated as to why that’s the case, the choice to use Android is often more about the cost of the phone itself versus a decision to align oneself with a particular hardware manufacturer or software system. Android phones extend further down into the low-end of the market in terms of price, and that makes them more broadly adopted – not just in the U.S., but worldwide.

Smartphone wirepost Chart 1

But whether Millennials are choosing one mobile platform or the other, we’ve long heard reports of how addicted they are to their devices. Remember the stories from earlier this year that said Millennials believed their smartphones were more important to them than deodorant? Or even their cars?

The millennials are very heavy mobile users, spending 14.5 hours per week on their phones, talking, texting or using social media, it’s also been said. For those designing the next mobile generation of mobile apps, or even just trying to adapt their current online offering to this mobile-first crowd, these metrics matter. In fact, in Nielsen’s smartphone app report from this July, the firm found that those aged 25 to 44 (a group which includes Millennials up to Gen X’ers) use the most apps per month, at 29 on average.

But it was those in the 18 to 24 bracket which spent the most time on their phones. This group was on their phone for 37 hours, 6 minutes, on average, per month – again, largely engaged with social networking apps, entertainment, and communication utilities.

It’s no wonder then, that I have an iPhone folder of messaging apps that’s now 10 pages deep on my phone. (It’s for research!) But now the question is whether or not the mobile platform itself will ever be able to grow a service as large as what incumbent Facebook was able to do on the web, before it successfully made the mobile leap. After all, those that do manage to establish a solid mobile footprint are often snapped up by Facebook anyway (e.g. Instagram, Whatsapp), it seems. Snapchat (which is probably delighted by this whole iCloud hack thing – shoulda used Snapchat!), is one notable exception.