Quick Chart: Gen-Z and Millennial Smartphone Usage

The world is going mobile. Smartphones are changing the way we communicate, the way we shop and look for information, and remaking entire industries. However, just how prevalent are smartphones across gen-Zers, millennials, and older generations? 

Smartphone Usage by Generation gen-z-millennial-generation-smartphone-penetration

In 2015, most traditional generations have adopted smartphones. With the exception of the silent generation and above (currently over 70), smartphone penetration lies above two-thirds.

Seventy-six percent of gen-Zers (12-18 years old) have smartphones. Millennials and gen-Xers are the most likely to have phones. Keep in mind, while ownership levels are similar, their behavior and attitudes vary considerably. Millennials self-profess a remarkably different level of dependence on the device.

The chart is also a reminder that despite the recurring thought pieces about how connected gen-Zers will remake the world, its smartphone market – like the segment – is still maturing. Their smartphone penetration is only eight percentage points higher than baby boomers.

A Closer Look by 5-Year Brackets

Looking at consumers in 5-year segments uncovers a few interesting things (we are strong proponents of cohort analysis for generational research, done through our five-year segments).

Building generational understanding through 5-year cohorts allows for a closer look at life stage (key for adolescent and young adult consumers) and avoids overly broad portrayals.


Unsurprisingly, 12-14 year-olds have the lowest penetration levels of the measured gen-Z and millennial segments. While this is often a tricky data point to measure since smartphones can be family devices, it shows a lag at 68% for 12-14 year-old gen-Zers.

However, smartphone penetration rises quickly by the high school years. Eighty-one percent of 15-18 year-olds have smartphones – marginally higher than the youngest millennial segment. Older gen-Zers exhibit essentially the same smartphone ownership rates as younger millennials. Aggregate gen-Z penetration is brought down by the 12-14 year-old segment.

From there the overall smartphone penetration trend follows as expected. Smartphone penetration peaks with older millennials and the youngest gen-Xers. The sharpest drop doesn’t occur until the baby boomer generation where smartphone penetration falls from 77% for the youngest baby boomers to 59% for the oldest.

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