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For 1st time, more own smartphones than 'dumb' phones

Tuesday - 5/6/2014, 4:13am  ET

Smartphones (thinkstock)
Smartphones are getting smarter, and more people want to buy them (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON -- Despite the explosion of smartphone technology that enables users to perform tasks previously done on desktop or laptop computers, most people have stuck with devices that mostly make old-fashioned phone calls.

Until now.

"This marks the first time that more U.S. households own smartphones than own basic cellphones," says Shawn DuBrevac, chief economist, for the Arlington, Va.-based Consumer Electronics Association.

Two-thirds of U.S. households now own smartphones, while only half own basic phones, according to a new CEA study.

"In the past few years, consumers have really been adopting mobile products like smartphones, integrating them into their daily lives," says DuBrevac. "So, they're not just using them when they're on the go, but they're also using them in their home, and they're using them in place of other devices.

How people are using phones

In CEA's 16th Annual Household CE Ownership and Market Potential Study, 27 percent of U.S. households plan to purchase a smartphone this year, topping headphones, televisions and laptop, notebook, netbook and tablet computers.

"The name 'phone' with regard to this device is almost a misnomer," says DuBrevac.

He adds that the study shows people are spending about 20 minutes a day on phone calls.

"Whereas we're spending well over two hours a day using these devices, so they have become utilities that we've integrated into our everyday lives," says DuBrevac.

Mobile sites and apps now facilitate tasks that were often done on bulkier computers.

"We use it to check banking account statements; we use it to order food and find restaurants," says DuBrevac. "We use it to make appointments. We're using it for more than just communication activities."

Smartphone growth expected to continue

As technologies mature and more consumers adopt them, "this opens up a host of different feature sets and price points," says DuBrevac.

Now, smartphones come with a wide variety of colors, features, and price ranges.

"Companies seek to differentiate themselves," says DuBrevac. "They seek to make the product attractive to other segments of the market that might be looking to adopt it next."

Not only do a higher percentage of households own smartphones, but homes that have gone smart tend to buy more devices.

"The average household with a smartphone has 2.2 smartphones," says DuBrevac. "The average household with a basic cellphone has 1.5 cellphones."

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