Smartphone-only internet users grow from 12% in 2016 to 20% this year

Pew Research Center found that the share of Americans using technology is starting to plateau. (Pew)

A growing number of U.S. households are exclusively accessing the internet via smartphones, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.

While much of the discussion about cord cutting in the U.S. is focused on households that are canceling cable or satellite TV services, this latest finding indicates the trend is now expanding into broadband services.

“The number of people who are smartphone-only internet users—meaning they own a smartphone but do not have traditional home broadband service—has grown from 12% in 2016 to 20% this year,” according to the latest survey from the polling group.

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Moreover, while the proportion of American adults with high-speed broadband service at home has steadily increased since 2000, adoption rates have been declining since 2016. Saturation levels may have peaked in 2016 when 73% of U.S. residents had broadband service at home, according to Pew Research Center’s polling data. As of the beginning of this year, adoption dipped to 65%.

Indeed, the 8% decline in at-home broadband service mirrors the 8% rise that Pew Research Center discovered among smartphone-only internet users. While it’s unclear if the latest trends will hold, the advancement of 5G services could ultimately accelerate the current trajectory in both directions.

Overall, the share of U.S. adults who say they use internet has remained relatively flat since 2016, according to the Pew Research Center.

“A contributing factor behind this slowing growth is that parts of the population have reached near-saturation levels of adoption of some technologies,” wrote Paul Hitlin, a senior researcher at the group.

Other factors weighing on the adoption of broadband in the home include cost and access, particularly in rural communities. Additionally, while many measures of technology adoption have steadied the past two years, the methods people use to connect to digital platforms is constantly shifting and evolving, according to the Pew Research Center.

The group also raised some doubts about the manner in which it and other pollsters track certain adoption metrics. The process and types of questions asked may need to change soon to account for the ubiquitous nature of technology and internet services in particular.