Poll: 64 percent own a smartphone

Smartphone ownership in the United States has hit 64 percent, according to a Pew Research survey released Wednesday. 

That number has steadily risen since last year, when 58 percent reported owning a smartphone. It has nearly doubled since 2011, when only 35 percent said they owned one. 

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About half of people describe their smartphone as something they “couldn’t live without,” but a slightly larger number say their device is “not always needed.” Other words respondents associated with their device were “freedom,” “connecting” and “worth the price.”

The federal government has taken a number of steps in the past few years to deal with the explosion of smartphones. The government has held and is planning a number of spectrum auctions, aimed at freeing up airwaves for wireless carriers to expand coverage.  

Last month, the Federal Communications Commission ruled for the first time that mobile broadband access would be subject to net neutrality regulations. 

The poll finds rural and low-income Americans are two of the least likely demographics to have a device, with ownership in those groups hitting about 50 percent. Fewer older Americans also own smartphones. 

Young people, ages 18 to 29, are the most likely to own one, with 85 percent reporting having a smartphone. About the same number of individuals who make $75,000 or more per year own a smartphone. 

Ten percent of smartphone users report having no broadband connection at home, while another 15 percent report having limited access to the Internet aside from their phone. 

Thirty-seven percent of users report hitting their maximum amount of data allowed at some point, while 27 percent reported seeing higher than expected monthly bills. 

Text messaging was found to be the most common use, followed shortly behind by Internet use and voice calling. More people reported using email on their phone than social media. 

Majorities report using their smartphone to conduct sensitive business, including looking up health conditions or online banking. 

Ninety-three percent of young adults reported using their device at least once a week to avoid being bored. Forty-seven percent said they had used a smartphone to avoid other people around them. 

The results are based on a series of surveys of U.S. adults conducted from October through December of 2014.