children on smartphoneSmartphone penetration has hit 87% of homes in the United States, according to the Consumer Technology Association’s “20th Consumer Technology Ownership and Market Potential Study.”

Only televisions, which are present in 96% of U.S. homes, are ahead of smartphones. With laptops owned in 72% of homes, for the first time, the top three devices are screen-based.

Smartphone Penetration
“The Three Screens’ – TVs, smartphones, and notebook computers – now dominate the kinds of tech devices Americans have in their home, speaking to consumers’ desire to be connected and entertained, anytime and anywhere,” Steve Koenig, the Vice President of Market Research for CTA, said in a press release. “The rapid ascent of smartphone ownership in U.S. households exemplifies the versatility of these devices – for communication, for entertainment, for productivity and more. And because of that, it’s possible we’ll see smartphone ownership in the U.S. match that of TVs within the next five years.”

Other notable results in the study are that smart speakers almost tripled their ownership rate and are now in 22% of homes. Smartwatches are in 18%, an increase of  six percentage points since last year. Drones hit 10% percent and virtual reality heads 11%.

The dynamics of television ownership are shifting, researchers said. Household penetration of 4K ultra high definition equipment rose 15 percentage points to 31%, and 19% of households have a set with a 60-inch or bigger screen. Digital media streaming devices are in 45% of households, an increase of nine percentage points over last year. The survey involved 2,016 U.S. adults and was conducted between Feb. 22 and March 5 of this year.

Last November, Deloitte LLP said that smartphone penetration had reached 82% among all Americans and 93% for those in the 18 to 24-year-old age group. The results were carried in its Global Mobile Consumer Survey.

While the industry should rightfully congratulate itself for these results, the numbers also represent a big problem. It’s simple: If just about everyone has a smartphone, where is the market going forward? The obvious answer is to upgrade to newer phones. However, the most enticing new features – high-quality cameras and videos – have already been introduced. Improvements going forward are likely to be incremental in nature and in many cases not enough to lead people to trade their current devices. This is leading manufacturers to focus a bit more on selling lower margin devices into nations with developing economies.

Image courtesy of flickr user Kyle Mahaney.

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