Pew: U.S. smartphone ownership tops feature phones, led by Android

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Close to half of American adults now own smartphones, outstripping feature phone ownership for the first time, according to a new report issued by the Pew Internet & American life project.

Forty-six percent of U.S. adults own smartphones as of February 2012, an increase of 11 percentage points over the 35 percent of Americans who owned a smartphone in May 2011, Pew reports. Forty-five percent of adults identify as smartphone owners (up from 33 percent in May) and 49 percent of respondents say their phone operates on a smartphone platform common to the U.S. market, up from 39 percent. Forty-one percent of adults own a cell phone that is not a smartphone; 12 percent of respondents still have not purchased a mobile phone of any kind.

Twenty percent of all U.S. mobile device owners indicate their phone runs Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android, up from 15 percent nine months ago--19 percent describe their device as an iPhone, up from 10 percent, while 6 percent describe it as a BlackBerry, down from 10 percent. Just 2 percent describe their phone as a Windows Device and 1 percent identify their phone as a Palm product, unchanged from May 2011.

Pew states that nearly every major demographic group--men and women, younger and middle-aged adults, urban and rural residents, wealthy and lower-income--experienced a notable uptick in smartphone penetration over the last year, with overall adoption levels are at 60 percent or more within several cohorts like college graduates, 18-to-35 year olds and Americans with an annual household income of $75,000 or more. Several demographics nevertheless saw modest or non-existent growth in the last year, in particular seniors: Only 13 percent of respondents 65 and older now own a smartphone.

Pew adds that while most consumers now find it easier to answer questions about their phones, the word "smartphone" remains a source of confusion. Eight percent of mobile phone owners are still unclear whether or not their device is a smartphone--a significant decrease compared to May 2011, when 14 percent of respondents expressed confusion over whether or not a smartphone was in their possession.

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