The contours of the findings of thereport on ‘Generations and their Gadgets’ you probably already know: Younger Americans use more mobile devices than older Americans. Older Americans generally access the internet from a desktop computer, whereas those under 35 tend to do so with a laptop/netbook. Etc.
But within those contours the project’s latest study, this one by Kathryn Zickuhr, we see growth in mobile use across all generations, and we even see some reticence to own any device across all generations as well.
Two notable features of the graph drawn up by the Pew Project showing ‘gadget ownership by American adults’ we think are worth mentioning. First, that the purchase of such communications tools followed the contours of the collapse of the US economy. Almost every piece of technology suffered in lower ownership rates between the fall of 2008 and the spring of 2010. Second, even with modest recoveries across the board, cell phones far outpaced all other tools, and desktops continued an overall decline in ownership. For ever more Americans, pulling up to the desktop for a stretch of internet browsing is becoming a thing of the past.
As for the cell phone, it remains the most popular overall communications technology among American adults, as about 85% of them own and use one. The relative simplicity and convenience of the cell phone means that up to 68% of adults in the ‘Silent Generation’ (aged 66-74) and almost half of the GI Generation (75 and older) use them. Moreover, these older generations are almost as likely as anyone else to take photos and send text messages, which means they are savvy about other features than the phone.
Indeed, one of the fastest changes is the use of VoIP technology (Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol – making calls over the internet rather than over traditional cell-phone networks). Through the last decade, use of VoIP has been pretty steadily flat at about 5-6% of adult internet users. But that number has over the last 18-odd months. Perhaps the recent volatility of the cell-carrier market has encouraged people of all ages to seek out other ways to get their voices heard.
At the other end of the generational scale (of adults), Millennials outpace everyone in ownership of numerous devices, and using those devices for multiple means of communication and media consumption. Nevertheless, even Millennials contributed to the 9% of all adults who own none of these devices.
Though the overall trends may not be surprising, has your organization taken those trends into account when reaching out to different generations? Have you considered ways to text older generations to get them involved in your projects? Have you made sure your web appeal is conveniently accessible on a mobile device? The report from Kathryn Zickuhr at the Pew Trust should be used as an introduction to what you can do to tailor your outreach rather than as a conclusion of which generations prefer which devices.