Future Tense

Nearly Half of Young Adults Browse the Web Mainly On Their Phones

The smartphone is replacing the computer for many Internet users.

Photo by Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images

Speaking of the iPhone, the Pew Internet Project has a new survey that finds the mobile revolution rolling along. More than half of American adult cell phone users—55 percent—now use their phones to go online. Though it feels like old news, that’s a dramatic change from five years ago, when cell phones were still mostly just phones.

That 55 percent figure includes people who use the mobile web sparingly. Going forward, it will be interesting to watch for when our mobile devices begin to replace laptops and desktops as primary gateways to the Internet. Among the 55 percent of adults who use the Internet on their phones, almost one in three say they go online mostly on their cell phone. That’s a decent amount, though not a huge jump from the 27 percent who gave that response when Pew asked a year ago.

Narrow the demographics to young adults (18-29), and the Internet’s mobile future comes into focus. Nearly half—45 percent—are “cell-mostly” Internet users, in the Pew study’s clunky phrasing. We might need to come up with a better name for this group. Within a few years, they’ll be the majority.