Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drinks

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

White People Like Old-School Phones

Posted by on Wed, Aug 15, 2012 at 11:36 AM

This is a change...

It has become a platitude in the technology industry that the future is mobile. But as more people turn to their smartphones for email, web browsing, and social networking, one group of Americans is being left behind: white people.

Nielsen's latest Mobile Insights study shows that whites are the only group of U.S. mobile subscribers who are more likely to own an old-school "feature phone" than a smartphone like the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy. Two-thirds of Asian-American mobile subscribers, 57 percent of Hispanics, and 53 percent of blacks own smartphones. For non-Hispanic whites, the figure is just 45 percent.

My four days near the middle of nowhere (Port Orford, Oregon)....

...has me thinking that the divide might have little to do with race and much to do with location—a urban/rural divide.


Comments (18) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
treefort 1
makes sense but, what's your point with the boat?
Posted by treefort on August 15, 2012 at 11:51 AM · Report this

The Lunatic Fringes of Nowhere wanted you to know that they are all trying to recruit you from the middle of Nowhere.

No matter which direction you leave from the middle of Nowhere, you will be headed towards the edge.

Choose your direction carefully.
Posted by LunaticFringe on August 15, 2012 at 12:10 PM · Report this
Dougsf 3
Port Orford ain't the middle of nowhere, it's sitting right there next to the Pacific Ocean.

I don't know what to make of the study, but as an urban dwelling white person, count me as being less than obsessed with mobile computing.
Posted by Dougsf on August 15, 2012 at 12:28 PM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 4
I'm an older white person. I still have a landline and a BlackBerry. Make of that what you will.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on August 15, 2012 at 12:43 PM · Report this
jjm84 5
I think The Stranger should send Charles to Wyoming. Have in spend a few days in a more diverse working city like Rock Springs (because of the oil and mining work) then visit Cheney in Jackson. He can work his way over to Newcastle, with a big oil refinery next door to the middle school and high school while visiting Devil's Tower and Mt. Rushmore and make one last stop at Pine Ridge.
Posted by jjm84 on August 15, 2012 at 12:45 PM · Report this
age is probably more of a factor... older folks can barely use the simple phones... and if you are buying a phone for your parents are you going to get an expensive smartphone or a cheaper simple one that is really all they want?
Posted by slugbiker on August 15, 2012 at 12:54 PM · Report this
This is a class issue. It's easier to afford a mobile phone than a computer and internet access. I bet you the percentage of the regular phone using white folks who own a computer is far higher than the percentage of smart phone having minorities.

I work in the school system in a minority majority city. Tons of the students have smart phones, and tons of them have no idea how to use a regular computer. That's a problem.
Posted by MR M on August 15, 2012 at 1:05 PM · Report this
It's not really a mystery. One demographic already had access through computers. One obtained similar access with the mobile revolution. Both groups don't see much reason to change the model of access they're familiar (and therefore comfortable) with.
Posted by usagi on August 15, 2012 at 1:07 PM · Report this
For a lot of lower income folks, I think the smartphone has become their computer and internet connection. It's not a perfect experience, but it gets you e-mail, basic web browsing, and media consumption (music, video, etc).

Since carriers subsidize the cost of the hardware and then make the subsidy back on the service contract, these folks can effectively pay for the device over time in smaller month by month chunks, rather than having to lay out $400-$1000 in one chunk to buy a laptop, then pay for internet service on top of it (or go to the library or something like that to use free wifi). So if cash flow is limited, this may be the most practical way to stay connected to the internet.

As minority groups are disproportionately represented in the lower income strata of U.S. society, it's not surprising that their adoption rates of smartphones are higher.

This was touched in in the New Yorker profile of Clayton Christensen, who wrote "the Innovators Dilemma." The salient parts are discussed by Jon Gruber here:…

"One CEO who never asked for his help, despite his admiration for The Innovator’s Dilemma, was Steve Jobs, which was fortunate, because Christiansen’s most embarrassing prediction was that the iPhone would not succeed. Being a low-end guy, Christiansen saw it as a fancy cell phone; it was only later that he realized that it was also disruptive to laptops."

That being said, I'm sure the urban/rural divide plays a role too, as high speed wireless internet service isn't as good in the rural areas as it is in the city (something I was reminded of during this past weekend spent on Orcas Island).
Posted by j-lon on August 15, 2012 at 1:08 PM · Report this
Fnarf 10
I just tried to kill my landline, since the only calls I get on it are polls, but it turns out that my Comcast package would go UP if I took the phone out. So I guess I'll stick with both. Two phones, approximately five minutes per month. Such a bargain.
Posted by Fnarf on August 15, 2012 at 1:09 PM · Report this
How much was the boat.
Posted by Bean on August 15, 2012 at 1:27 PM · Report this
lark 12
Good Afternoon Charles,
I'm old I guess, 52 y/o. I don't think race has anything to do with this phenomenon. Class and wealth maybe but not race.

I acquired my first cell phone 8 months or so ago. A great friend of mine gave me his. I bought $20 worth of minutes and I haven't used it in 7 months since. Smartphones and other hand held devices elicit a yawn from me. I'm not necessarily a Luddite. I do have a PC & telephone. But, if older people are using older phones then it might be a sign of wisdom more than say race, urban/rural divide, etc. They, like me want want to be left alone. I'm just not that important for people to have need to get a hold of me so quickly. I can easily be contacted.

FTR and in line with my not possessing a smartphone, I've never paid for cable TV (I loathe commercial TV) and have never possessed/owned a car. I'm an underconsumer. I think it's better for the earth.
Posted by lark on August 15, 2012 at 1:28 PM · Report this
No its because I have access to computers everywhere I go... So why do I need one on my phone? My house has more computers than people.
Posted by subwlf on August 15, 2012 at 2:18 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 14
@7 FTW. I was contemplating getting a smart phone, but got internet instead.
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on August 15, 2012 at 10:27 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 15
@12- You're not wrong about underconsuming, but nobody talks on a smartphone. It's for texting, emailing, looking at porn, playing video games, listening to music, and letting calls go to voicemail because talking on the phone sucks.
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on August 15, 2012 at 10:31 PM · Report this
lark 16
I didn't know that about the Smartphone until now.
Posted by lark on August 15, 2012 at 11:04 PM · Report this
Aww! I grew up in Port Orford! I'm probably related to the seller of that boat. I now live in a city of 3 million and own an iPhone. Anyway, I agree with 7. and 9. that the smart phone divide is probably about income, i.e.easy access to a personal computer, rather than race.
Posted by suzanna on September 10, 2012 at 12:12 PM · Report this
Might have to do with that. More white people live in the middle of the country, and some of those people may not care as much about fancy phones. I don't know the statistics of how much of the US elderly are white. I'm guessing it's a good amount? As for me, though, I don't care about smart phones. I'm a white guy, in my 20's, from urban New York, and my phone is way old-school. I don't really care about all that stuff yet.

I'm going to generalise, but Asian Americans LOVE keeping up with the latest technology. Holy crap, I have Asian-American friends that can talk about the new Iphone for 2 hours straight.
Posted by Dan Man with a Plan on October 6, 2012 at 12:16 PM · Report this

Add a comment


Want great deals and a chance to win tickets to the best shows in Seattle? Join The Stranger Presents email list!

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy