CTA: Smartphone Ownership Rises, But TV Is Still Tops

Eight out of 10 homes have a smartphone, but TV continues to be the top technology device in the U.S., according to research from the Consumer Technology Association.

While that 80% of homes with smartphones is up six percentage points over 2016, with 27 million more phones, almost all homes (96%) have a TV set, which for decades has been the most popular tech device in the U.S.

Smartphones jumped to the number two spot in tech popularity, however, surpassing DVD/Blu-ray players, which had ranked second for several years but dropped seven percentage points (to 70% of households) and unit ownership fell by 14 percentage points to 142 million. 

Smartphones and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications saw the biggest gains in household ownership. CTA says 45% of households have at least one vehicle with driver-assist technology—back-up sensors, cameras or hands-free calling. 

Screens dominate the tech category. "Three of the top five most frequently owned technology devices are products with screens—televisions, smartphones and laptops—and those numbers will continue to grow as one-third of consumers tell us they'll buy at least one smartphone in 2017, and one-fifth say they plan to buy a television or laptop in the coming year," said Steve Koenig, senior director of market research for CTA. "U.S. consumers are quickly embracing the rapid rise of today's 'screen culture,' demonstrating their appetite for connected devices that enable easy and accessible consumption of content of all types." 

Broadcasters are looking to boost their multi-screen profile with a new ATSC 3.0 transmission standard, the rollout of which the FCC is expected to approve by year's end. 

But the screen picture was not all rosy. CTA said that the high penetration of "mature" categories like TVs and tablets means more pressure on margins. It cited, for example, that despite a projected 65% increase in Ultra HD TV revenue in 2016, overall TV market revenue is not expected to increase this year. 

And while the 96% of homes with at least one TV remained steady, the total number—308 million—was down 3%.

(Photo via Pabak Sarkar's Flickr. Image taken on Feb. 15, 2017 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 9x16 aspect ratio.)

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.