Generation gap narrows as over-55s make fastest switch to smartphones
OLDER people are switching to smartphones faster than anyone else, a senior technology forecaster has said.
Deloitte's head of technology research, Paul Lee, told the Irish Independent that the over-55s were now the fastest growing segment of the smartphone market, with one in two older people expected to have a smartphone by the end of the year.
"It's a natural progression and one that we're seeing now as older people start to replace their phones," said Mr Lee.
"Ownership isn't as high as in younger age categories but it will still make up half of over-55s by year-end – a 25pc increase from 2013."
In Ireland, more than 70pc of phone sales are smartphones, with official figures showing almost five million active mobile subscriptions.
However, Mr Lee said that while older people were gradually moving to smartphones, many were still only using them for basic calls and texting.
"Services like instant messaging have a very low participation rate for older people," he said. "They're still using SMS texts much more because of that system's universality."
Figures in Ireland show that SMS texting is falling by over 10pc a year, replaced by free online smartphone texting services such as Whatsapp, iMessage and Snapchat.
"There's probably an opportunity for growth among older people there, but in general, they are not using data to its full functionality," said Mr Lee.
Meanwhile, older people are switching to tablet PCs in similar waves to younger generations, according to Deloitte.
"Things like iPads depend partly on wealth and means," said Mr Lee. "So in terms of age groups, I don't think it's a particular factor as they're being bought by all age groups. A main factor is whether one has the means to buy one."
However, there is a generational split opening up on use of televisions, with older people sticking to conventional TVs while their younger peers move to online platforms such as Netflix.
"If you look at TV viewing by hours, it's now older people who watch more," said Mr Lee.
"What's happened is that younger people are bringing laptops, tablets and smartphones into the living room and paying more attention to those devices."
Other trends include a growth spurt for so-called 'phablets', smartphones that are big enough to look like mini-tablets. Last year saw a 20-fold sales increase in phablet sales on two years previously.
Mr Lee also cast some doubt on reports that younger people were leaving Facebook in large numbers.
"What upsets younger people about Facebook is that it's where their great aunt checks in with them," he said. "But there's a big difference between saying that you're leaving and actually leaving. It's often exaggerated.
"It's a little bit like pay TV, where a high proportion say that they're going to give it up but few actually do."