Advanced Television

Americans’ changing technology tastes

January 9, 2014

By Colin Mann

As attendees get a glimpse of the Consumer Electronics industry’s future at International CES, research from Gallup suggests that the devices Americans own have changed over the past decade, with ownership of laptops (64 per cent) and iPods/MP3 players (45 per cent) up most dramatically from 2005.

Compared with 2005, fewer Americans today have desktop computers, VCRs, and basic cellphones, while there have been substantial increases in ownership of MP3 players and laptops, with slight increases in ownership of video game systems and satellite TV. Meanwhile, most Americans say they have Internet access at home through Wi-Fi (73 per cent) or have smartphones with Web access (62 per cent).

Gallup’s Andrew Dugan notes that even in the face of such rapid innovation, some items have showed remarkable staying power since 2005. Ownership of cable TV (68 per cent) has not changed, even as speculation abounds that Internet streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix, or Roku could displace cable. Essentially the same share of Americans own DVD or Blu-ray players as in 2005, 80 per cent, and this is the most commonly owned electronic device.

The youngest American adults – those aged 18 to 29 – favour a different portfolio of technology devices from their older compatriot. Smartphone ownership among the young is nearly universal (88 per cent), and it is the most common device among this group. Eighty-three percent of 18- to 29-year-olds have wireless Internet access at home, and another 79 per cent have a laptop.

Less common among younger Americans are items that are familiar to individuals of a different generation – about four in 10 younger Americans have a VCR (41 per cent), and an identical percentage have a desktop computer. Meanwhile, a basic cellphone, which 86 per cent of 18- to 29-year-olds owned in 2005, is now the least commonly owned technology device among this age group (24 per cent).

Dugan stresses that this is not to say that older generations have been left behind as technology changes. Recent research suggests that the largest growth in Facebook over the past year came from the oldest cohort of Americans, aged 65 and older. But older Americans are most likely to have older forms of technology, including cable TV (74 per cent) and the now essentially obsolete VCR (74 per cent), although 70 per cent own DVD players. A majority of Americans aged 65 and older own a basic cellphone (61 per cent), while one-quarter own a smartphone.

About half of older Americans have wireless Internet access in their homes. Portable Internet-based or Internet-providing devices are less popular with American seniors: one-quarter have tablet computers, while 16 per cent have an iPod or MP3 player and 15 per cent have an Internet streaming service. Video game systems are the least popular electronic product among older Americans, at 10 per cent.

All in all, the five devices that skew the youngest are smartphones, video game systems, Internet streaming services, iPod or MP3 players, and laptop computers. And the five devices that skew the oldest are satellite TV, cable TV, desktop computers, VCRs, and basic cellphones.

“The week’s CES show could unveil another electronic device that will soon be ubiquitous in American life. Of course, in the process, these new devices will begin displacing other popular technology. The constantly evolving nature of the technology scene is why so many people find it exciting, and as this Gallup poll shows, technology ownership has changed dramatically since 2005. Portable Internet-connected devices such as laptops and smartphones are generally more favoured, while older forms of technology such as desktop computers, VCRs, and basic cellphones are falling out of fashion,” concludes Dugan.


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