Mobile Generation Gap

Joe D

What type of mobile device are you most comfortable using, and what does that say about you and your generation?  A recent study was conducted by Affinity Research, which revealed a generational gap that divides users based upon their preferences for mobile devices.  Despite the differences, eMarketer said that an estimated 91 million consumers in the US are accessing the Internet via mobile device on at least a monthly basis. This figure is up greatly from the end of 2010 figure of 77.8 million US-based mobile Internet users.

The study revealed some interesting statistics, including data that showed different mobile device preferences by different generational groups. Older consumers gravitated toward tablets and ereaders as their favorite Internet-connected mobile devices while the younger users tend to prefer using smartphones.

According to Affinity, Generation X users are 16% more likely than any other consumer age group to own a tablet. However, another study conducted by GfK MRI showed that the addition of ereaders into the tablet category revealed that the usage rate by Gen Xers could be much higher. For example, the GfK MRI report showed that Gen X users were 25% more likely than other US adults to own either an ereader or tablet mobile device.

What drives the preference of the tablet-based mobile device in Gen X users? Studies suggest that income might be a big influence compared to older senior users as well as younger users who might not be able to afford the tablet devices. Further study of the data revealed that wealthy Gen Xers were more likely to own the newer and more powerful gadgets across the board, with 63% of Gen Xers who had annual household incomes of $100,000 or more much more likely to own a tablet PC than other lower-income Gen Xers. Also, more males in Gen X were likely to own tablets than females.

However, both the GfK MRI and Affinity studies showed a strong preference among Baby Boomers to own ereader type devices. The GfK MRI study even showed that Baby Boomers were more likely to own a Kindle than Millennials and Gen Xers. The Affinity Research report showed that on average, Boomers were 19% more likely to have an ereader than other consumers. Experts believe that the growth in ereader ownership within the Baby Boomer generation might be due to the basic and straight-forward nature of ereader devices. Within the Baby Boomer generation, ereader use is slightly more prevalent with female consumers than males.

Both studies showed that Millennials were less likely than either the Boomers or the Gen Xers to own a tablet PC or ereader. However, this younger generation surpasses both groups with its adoption of smartphone devices.  Labeled by marketers as the "Gadget Generation" or "Digital Natives," Millennials are 28% more likely than other consumer groups to own a smartphone. In fact, 46.5 million Millennials already own one and use it regularly to access the Internet and another 24 million Millennials plan to purchase one within the next 6 months.  According to a study published by the folks at Pew Internet & American Life Project, the younger end of the Gen X spectrum and Millennials own more smartphones than users over the age of 35.

Boomers are generally held to have been born between 1946 and 1964, Generation X from there through about 1981, then followed Generation Y or the Millennials until about 2000 and Generation Z mostly held to be born in the new century and also known as the Internet Generation or Generation Text. They all overlap, but analyzing the importance of all of the new mobile device data available, the experts at eMarketer had expected that US-based advertisers alone would spend over $1.6 billion on mobile digital advertising through 2012, but expenditures are proving much higher, up as much as 80%, and the new prediction is for the US mobile ad spend to be more than $2.6 billion with about half going to Google!  Mobile marketers can make sure that they spend their ad dollars wisely on these three demographics if they take into account the usage preferences and demographics published in these studies. Now get busy adjusting your mobile plan!