Smartphone Ownership Now 2nd Behind TVs

An annual CTA study shows smartphones are now the second-most owned tech device, behind TV sets, growing 13% to 238 million last year.

Smartphones are now in 80% of U.S. homes — a six percentage point increase year-over-year (YOY) — with U.S. consumers now owning 238 million smartphones, up 13% from just last year, according to new research from the Consumer Technology Association.

CTA’s 19th Annual Consumer Technology Ownership and Market Potential Study also shows televisions remain the most popular technology device in the U.S., as they have for decades — almost every household (96%) owns at least one TV. Additionally, from 2016 to 2017, the U.S. market saw an increase in the overall installed base of connected devices including smart home devices, smart TVs, wearables and wireless speakers. 

 “Connectivity — the anytime/anywhere access to information and entertainment we now expect — is a driving trend of our time, supported by the continued growth we’ve seen in smartphone ownership,” said Gary Shapiro, CTA president-CEO. “Smartphones are our personal hubs for innovative technologies like smart homes, connected cars and voice-recognition services. And, as more of us recognize the ability of technology to change our lives for the better, smartphones will continue to be one of the most pervasive technologies owned in homes throughout the U.S.”

While CTA forecasts overall industry growth in 2016, it notes the strong household penetration of mature categories, such as tablets, televisions, PCs and laptops, and continued industry innovation are declining or slowing growth and placing pressure on margins for some manufacturers and retailers. For example, despite a projected 65% increase in revenue for Ultra High-Definition TVs in 2016, CTA expects revenue for the overall TV market to not increase this year.

“Three of the top five most frequently owned technology devices are products with screens — televisions, smartphones and laptops — and those numbers will continue to grow as one-third of consumers tell us they’ll buy at least one smartphone in 2017, and one-fifth say they plan to buy a television or laptop in the coming year,” said Steve Koenig, CTA senior director of market research. “U.S. consumers are quickly embracing the rapid rise of today’s ‘screen culture,’ demonstrating their appetite for connected devices that enable easy and accessible consumption of content of all types.” 

Most Frequently Owned Products


While the list is largely consistent with 2016’s report , CTA identified a few notable changes within its annual top five rankings of most frequently owned tech devices in U.S. households:

  • Televisions: While household ownership remains steady at 96% owning at least one TV, the total number of units owned (308 million) decreased by 3% YOY, reflecting a very slight decrease in the number of TVs in use per household.
  • Smartphones: With smartphones reaching a record level of household penetration (80%), they jumped solidly into second place among the country’s most frequently owned tech products; the total number of smartphones owned also increased significantly to 238 million (up 13%).
  • DVD/Blu-ray players: After ranking second on this list for several years, household ownership levels dropped seven percentage points YOY (70%) and unit ownership fell 14 percentage points (142 million).
  • Wired headphones and earbuds: With the addition of earbuds, household ownership of this category now sits at 70%, boosting this audio technology up one spot from last year’s report; these are the country’s most frequently owned tech product by unit (352 million).
  • Notebooks, laptops or netbooks: While household ownership increased slightly (69%, up one percentage point), the category fell one spot in the rankings despite a 12% YOY jump in unit ownership.

 Largest Increases In Connected Device Ownership

Smartphones and in-vehicle communications/safety systems saw the largest gains in household ownership among connected devices — both increasing by six percentage points YOY. Almost half (45%) of U.S. households now have at least one vehicle with a driver-assistive safety or communication system such as back-up sensors, rearview cameras or hands-free calling.

Smart home devices, smart TVs, smartwatches, wearable activity trackers and wireless speakers each saw an increase in household ownership of 4% YOY.

CTA’s research last year showed most consumers are excited about automated driving features and self-driving cars, but there’s still some hesitancy about the technology,” said Koenig. “This report is further evidence that, despite that wariness, more and more drivers want innovations that help keep them safer on the road. So, as a broader range of our driving tasks are automated via driving-assist technologies, eventually, riding in a self-driving car will be just an incremental step from the in-car tech we’ve all come to know and love.”

Emerging Technologies

Among emerging technologies, 4K Ultra HD (UHD) television is enjoying the fastest growth in ownership. CTA’s research analysis shows 16% of U.S. households now own a 4K UHD TV — up nine percentage points YOY — and 11% of U.S. households plan to purchase a 4K UHD TV in the coming year. Other emerging technologies expected to experience significant YOY ownership growth in the year to come include voice-activated digital assistants, drones and virtual reality headsets.

The 19th Annual Consumer Technology Ownership and Market Potential Study ascertains ownership and purchase intent of consumer technology products among U.S. households across various categories. The report was administered via a dual-frame telephone interview to 2,014 U.S. adults conducted Feb. 2-13, 2017. It is designed and formulated by CTA Market Research. The complete study is available for free for CTA member companies at Non-members may purchase the study at the CTA store.

CTA’s biannual U.S. Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts report projects unit sales and revenues across consumer technology categories. CTA will publish the next edition in July.

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