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Boomers Slowly Joining the Mobile Web

New statistics about baby boomers’ usage of the mobile web are here, and the news, sadly, is not surprising. This generation of users (ages 45 and older) has been slow to adopt mobile Internet technology. However, that’s not to say they aren’t getting on board with the mobile web revolution – they’re just taking a little more time to get here than the other demographic groups surveyed.

Today, only 55% of boomers consider their mobile phone a necessity, a number which likely shocks younger generations whose attachment to their handheld device is so strong, they claim to “feel naked without it.”

Boomers: Slow to Adopt New Technology

The delay with which baby boomers embrace new technologies isn’t limited to the mobile web – this is just the next item in a series of technology trends where boomers seem to lag behind. Outside of the pro-social media analyst group Forrester (whose reports we desperately want to believe), most studies show boomers have been slow to adopt new technology, be it social networks or smartphones.  

Although as of summer 2009, older users were joining Facebook in record numbers, even outnumbering high school students on the site, it took a long time for them to get there. This group of technology users is definitely not filled with early adopters. Instead, boomers need to wait and see the benefits of a new technology before signing on, or so says eMarketer, the analyst firm who released this latest mobile web report. On Facebook, that benefit was likely the “network effect” – enough of their friends urged them to join at the same time as their younger family members were busy posting photos and videos of the boomers’ grandchildren, something boomers didn’t want to miss out on.

Stats on Boomers and the Mobile Web

As for the mobile web, although the technology in question is different, the desire (or lack thereof) to participate is the same. Until the boomers see a real need for the mobile web, smartphones and the accompanying mobile apps, they’ll get by just fine without it, thank you very much.

A few key stats from eMarketer’s report:

  • 85% of baby boomers own a mobile phone, but the majority own feature phones (non-smartphones)
  • 55% consider their mobile phone a necessity
  • Boomers make up only 19.6% of touchscreen phone users
  • Boomers make up only 21.1% of smartscreen phone users
  • Younger boomers (ages 45-54) are more likely to own a smartphone or touchscreen phone than older boomers

Things are Changing

As Lisa E. Phillips, eMarketer senior analyst, kindly puts it, “boomers are underrepresented among smartphone users.” The good news is that’s starting to change. Slowly but surely, boomers are becoming more interested in smartphone devices. Phillips notes that their interest is influenced by the prevalence of smartphones in the marketplace combined with a down economy which is forcing boomers to forgo retirement. Because many smartphones have a business aspect to them, boomers are starting to see the appeal of these devices.

However, the most important factor slowing their adoption is price. As carriers reduce prices for both phones and data plans, many more boomers will join their younger counterparts to become mobile web users themselves.

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