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Mobile Mayhem: Number of Smartphone Owners Without Wireline Internet Access Increases

By Craig Galbraith
August 29, 2013 - News

The use of smartphones has become a critical part of doing business, but would you be surprised to learn that 10 percent of Internet users in the U.S. get on the Web solely via their handsets?

That's what a new report from The Pew Research Center has revealed. This 10 percent has no wireline Internet access at all. Who are they? Young people, as you might predict. Yet their demographics are interesting: Most in this category have never attended college and make less than $30,000 per year.

Some of these users, however, might be tethering their laptops to their smartphones, the report noted, calling this a trend that could make traditional wired broadband a thing of the past at some point.

“This number isn't surprising at all, and their characteristics track with what we've heard from the mostly prepaid operators serving this demographic," noted Yankee Group senior analyst Rich Karpinski, commenting specifically on a Washington Post report about the research. "And indeed a smartphone and value-priced prepaid plan – often coming in at around U.S.$40 for unlimited voice, text and unlimited (but throttled) data – is a good deal. This group of users isn't looking for just basic service either."

To back up his point, Karpinski points to Cricket, which has done well with its Muve music service by targeting the young, value-conscious consumer.

"The conundrum has always been that such customers can't necessarily afford the high out-of-pocket costs of a fully unsubsidized (U.S.$600-plus) high-end smartphone, a reality that has helped drive first device financing and now zero-down early upgrade programs into the market," Karpinski added. "They may represent only a small sliver of users today, but their requirements are helping to influence the shape of the U.S. mobile market."

Follow senior online managing editor @Craig_Galbraith on Twitter.

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