Consumer tech device necessities are shifting
October 4, 2010
by Mark Ollig

Two steadfast technology devices from the last century we once considered essential are diminishing in importance.

Today, when we consider the necessary technological devices we need to have in our homes, one might start off by thinking of a computer.

Thirty years ago, a majority of us probably would have said our television set and a telephone were essential to have.

A household computer of the 1980s vintage, was considered more of an electronic gadget one played games on or tinkered with as a home computing hobby.

Last week, I read the latest Social & Demographic Trends report released by the Pew Research Center and found some interesting statistics.

The poll was conducted from May 11 through May 31, 2010 among a national sampling of 2,967 adults ages 18 to 65 and better.

I noted in the Pew Research telephone survey, both landline and cell phone users were contacted for this poll.

According to their latest survey results, the landline telephone (the one with the cord attached to it for you young people) and the standard traditional living room television set, has seen a remarkable decline in being the “necessary” items in our everyday lives that they once were.

According to Pew, only 42 percent of those polled today think of the traditional television set as a necessity.

This is a full 10 percent point reduction from the same poll taken just last year.

The standard landline telephone took a smaller reduction, as 62 percent of the adults polled still consider having one a necessity of life. This is still a 6 percent reduction from last year’s poll.

Among the young people age 18 to 29, just 46 percent consider having a landline phone as being a necessity, and only 29 percent considered a television set as one.

Pew’s analysis of the US government’s own information currently shows just 74 percent of today’s US households having a traditional corded landline telephone.

In 2001, the percentage of households having a corded landline phone was at its all-time high of 97 percent.

The Pew Research numbers today show 82 percent of all adults using cell phones, which is up 29 percent, from 53 percent, in 2001.

Cell phones, according to the Pew survey, are considered by 47 percent of all adults polled as being a necessity in life.

An interesting side statistic your humble columnist found was among the young people with cell phones. Instead of spending time talking on them, they are now using them more for text messaging.

I was somewhat surprised when I read how Pew Research called our relationship with the television set as “schizophrenic.”

I believe Pew was attempting to explain how we are changing our perception of what we consider today as a “television” since we are able to view our video content and television programs from other electronic devices besides the traditional standard television set sitting in many of our living rooms.

Even though the survey shows television itself becoming less of a “necessity” in today’s everyday life, we are nonetheless buying more of the newer high-tech flat-screen television sets.

Surprisingly, Pew Research in its latest survey shows 10 percent of those polled as saying a flat-screen television set has now become a “necessity of life.”

There is some evidence to back this up.

More than 100 million flat-screen televisions have been purchased by US consumers during the last five years.

Getting back to telephone preference, Pew stated the percentages change based on the age of the person being surveyed.

Fifty-nine percent of 18 to 29 year-olds believe having a cell phone is more of a necessity than a landline telephone.

Of those in the 30 to 49 year group, 62 percent consider the landline phone a necessity over a cell phone by 11 percent.

The boomers in the 50 to 64 age range favored a landline phone over a cell phone by 21 percent, as 64 percent polled preferred having a landline telephone.

Of those surveyed age 65 and better, 77 percent considered having a landline phone as a necessity.

Pew reported Americans watching various kinds of video content over the Internet (which includes movies and television programming), is currently at 52 percent.

Also noted was the 31 percent of us who are listening to radio programming on our computers or other “non-traditional” radio devices, including iPhones and iPods.

This past spring, 14 percent of those polled who owned a cell phone said they had, in fact, watched television programs and other video content on their cell phones.

The bottom line is, we will continue to communicate with each other and watch our television programs and other video content.

The change taking place is the increasing speed of the technological transformation occurring in today’s ever-evolving and inventive world.

New technical innovations are allowing all of us as consumers to choose from a variety of new devices for communications, television viewing, and video content consumption.

The details of the Social & Demographic Trends report released by the Pew Research Center can be read at this shortened link, http://tinyurl.com/2evesgt.

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