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Cellphone and internet adoption may have peaked in the US

PC ownership, however, is on the way down.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
September 30, 2018
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There's no question that technologies like cellphones and internet access have become ubiquitous, but they now appear to be hitting their peak in the US. Pew Research Center's latest technology study has shown that key categories technological adoption has gone virtually unchanged since the last study in 2016, suggesting they've hit saturation points. Much like two years ago, about 95 percent of all Americans studied (99 percent in the ages 18-49 group) have cellphones, 89 percent have internet access, 77 percent have smartphones and 69 percent use social networks. In fact, PC adoption went down -- 73 percent have a computer where 78 percent did in 2016.

This doesn't mean the tech has completely run out of room to grow, but there may be barriers that would require deeper social solutions. Cost, as you might imagine, is a central factor: computer ownership is highest among those with strong incomes ($75,000 and up), and a 2015 survey showed that 43 percent of people without fast home internet access cited the price as an obstacle. A lack of rural broadband options also limits just how far connectivity can go, while older people aren't always as comfortable with technology as their younger counterparts.

You can see some movement. The number of smartphone-only internet users jumped from 12 percent in 2016 to 20 percent this year. However, the sheer omnipresence of certain technologies has led Pew to consider changing its questions. Internet access is almost like electricity, Pew said. The focus may need to be on the ways they use services, such as voice assistants and smart home devices.

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