mobile devices

Many young adults ditch laptops for smartphones

Smartphones are more important to young adults in the U.S. and three other countries than laptops, desktops or tablets, according to a survey of 1800 18- to 30-year-old users in 18 countries.

The laptop was still preferred over the smartphone by Generation Y users in the remaining 14 countries in the survey, but usually by only a small margin, according to the online survey of full-time university students and workers between ages 18 to 30 was conducted by a research unit within Cisco.

It is the third annual survey from the unit, and unusual because the sample size is so large. The results were released last week.

Laptops were preferred by 37 percent of respondents in all 18 countries surveyed, while smartphones were preferred by 32 percent, desktops by 16 percent, and tablets by 11 percent. The results are based on the question: If you had to choose just one device to own, which would it be?

The survey showed how vital the smartphone has become to members of Gen Y: 90 percent said they check their smartphone before school or work—often before getting out of bed.

"The smartphone seems to be evolving beyond tool status," said Neil Wu Becker, director of global research at Cisco. "It's more of an appendage that satisfies our craving to stay connected, and contributes to our sense of well being."

Becker said it came as a surprise that 71 percent of those surveyed regularly used fewer than ten apps—most for games and entertainment.

Strongest preference

The preference for a smartphone over all other computing devices was strongest in South Korea, where 54 percent of respondents preferred the smartphone. By comparison, 29 percent of South Korean young adults preferred a desktop system,11 percent a tablet and just 4 percent a laptop.

The smartphone was preferred by 41 percent of U.S. respondents, compared to 39 percent who liked laptops best, 9 percent who preferred desktops and 5 percent listed a tablet. Gen Y users in Japan also preferred the smartphone over the laptop, but the highest preference—40 percent—was for desktops. Mexico also preferred the smartphone over the laptop, by 43 percent to 30 percent.

laptops

Smartphones aren't the favorite of everybody, the survey showed.

The biggest support for laptops as the preferred device came in Poland. The survey found that 65 percent of Polish respondents preferred laptops, while only 11 percent liked smartphones best.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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