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New Research Finds That 45% of American Households Still Have a Landline Phone

It feels like everyone has migrated to using their smartphone for everything. So, how many people still use a landline phone in 2017?

The short answer is: more than you’d think. Or, at least, it turns out more people still use a landline phone than we would have guessed.

We’d assume that more and more people are choosing to save money by tossing their landline phones, and only using their cell phones.

Related: How Much Time Do People Spend on Their Mobile Phones in 2017?

And that is happening to an extent, but here’s what new research shows us is really happening.

How many people still use a landline phone in 2017?

50.8% of American households are “wireless only homes.”

According to this month’s report by the U.S. Center for Disease Control National Health Information Survey (NHIS), 45.9% of American households still use a landline phone as of December 2016.

This figure is down 2.6% since December 2015, and has been dropping by an average of 3.7% year-over-year since 2010.

PC: MarketingCharts

Most households — 50.8% — now only use cell phones, though the numbers do vary somewhat by study.

GfK MRI reported in January that 52% of American households are cell-only in their Survey of the American Consumer. Either way, it’s clear that more and more Americans are abandoning landline phones.

Who’s still using landline phones in 2017?

Income and location have as much to do with landline phone ownership as age.

As you might imagine, older demographics are more likely to still use a landline phone.

A particularly telling finding by the NHIS is 50.5% of all adults surveyed (male and female, husbands and wives, etc.) live in “wireless only homes.” Yet 60.7% of children (those under 18 years old) live in “wireless only homes.”

Another interesting finding is that 61.7% of adults 18–24 live in wireless only homes, while 72.7% of adults 25–29 and 71.0% of adults 30–34 live in wireless only homes.

This could be explained by more college-aged adults living with their parents, though the NHIS report does not confirm this.

Related: Mobile Mary: A Complete Guide for Marketing to Millennials

Age is certainly a contributing factor in landline phone ownership, but income and geographic location seem to play an equal role.

According to the NHIS:

“Adults living in poverty (66.3%) and near poverty (59.0% were more likely than higher income adults (48.5%) to be living in households with only wireless telephones [cell phones].”

This lines up with research by Pew Research Center, which shows that lower income families are more likely to rely on their smartphones as their only source of internet and telecommunications.

These groups are less likely to purchase bundled services, such as internet, satellite TV, and phone.

PC: Pew Research Center

And according to GfK’s report, only 39% of households in Northeast U.S. are wireless only, while 53% of households in the Midwest and 57% of households in the South are wireless only.

GfK makes a similar connection as Pew. They say households in the Northeast have higher rates of bundled services, and so are more likely to still use landline phones.

What about businesses?

It’s difficult to find definitive numbers on business landline use.

We know it’s common for established small businesses to stick with their existing landline services. The audio quality is better, they can bundle the service, and they’ve already paid for installation (often the most expensive part of landline services).

We also know it’s common for new(er) businesses to choose voice over internet protocol (VOIP) services instead of landlines. These are more cost-efficient and easier to manage.

Related: 8 Reasons Why Texting is Crucial to Business Communication

And still, it’s common for businesses to switch from landline to VOIP services.

All of these cases are common, but, unfortunately, we have no recent numbers on American usage. We do know, worldwide, VOIP servicesare expected to hit 1 billion users by the end of this year, creating a global market value of approximately $98.8 billion.

What should you do with this information?

What good is research if you can’t apply it to anything?

These numbers should help inform your business decisions and shape your view of our technology landscape. People today prefer mobility and saving money, so they choose less expensive services that can be used anywhere.

In general, our culture is changing. Home landlines are called by fundraisers more than by friends and families. And so many people work in multiple spaces that a landline phone can be impractical.

Yet a lot of people still use a landline phone in 2017! Over 45% of American households have a landline phone, even though that number is trending down.

This signals a shift in our communications, though perhaps not as large of one as some major media players would have you believe. We’re changing, but we haven’t entirely migrated yet.

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