Far beyond the desktop, the digital world has expanded to an array of untethered devices: US consumers' adoption of laptop computers, cell phones, and other mobile gadgets continues to increase, while the ownership of desktop computers is gradually declining, according to Pew Research.

Over one-half of surveyed Americans (52%) say they own a laptop, up from 30% in 2006. Meanwhile, the percentage of adults who own a desktop computer has fallen to 59%, down from 68% four years earlier.

Adults age 18-29 are now the only major demographic group for whom laptops are notably more commonplace than desktop computers: 72% own a laptop computer, whereas 56% own a desktop computer.

Overall, computer ownership is most prevalent among higher-income households, as more than nine in ten households (92%) with annual incomes of $50,000+ have a computer of some kind.

Interestingly, rural residents (56%) are nearly as likely as non-rural residents (61%) to own a desktop computer, but are significantly less likely than non-rural dwellers to own a laptop computer (39% vs. 55%).

Below, other findings from the study Americans and Their Gadgets, by Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.

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Cell phones, however, are the gadget of choice among Americans in 2010: Fully 85% of all adults now own a mobile phone.

Ownership rates among young adults illustrate how mobile phones have become a necessity of modern communications: 96% of those age 18-29 own a cell phone of some kind, as do 75% of teens age 14-17.

Among other key devices:

  • 47% of all adults own an mp3 player such as an iPod, nearly a five-fold increase from 11% in early 2005.
  • 42% of adults own a console gaming device such as an Xbox or PlayStation, while parents (64%) are nearly twice as likely as non-parents (33%) to own a game console.

Meanwhile, ownership of e-book readers (such as the Amazon Kindle) and tablet computers (such as the Apple iPad) is concentrated among college graduates and those with relatively high incomes: Roughly one in ten Americans with annual household incomes of $75,000 or more own a tablet PC (9%) or e-book reader (12%), while fewer than 5% of households earning less than $50,000 per year contain one of these devices.

Multiple Device Ownership

Eight in ten adults (78%) own two or more of such devices. Among other factors, device ownership is highly correlated with age. For example, adults under age 45 own four devices on average, while those age 55-64 own two and those age 65+ own just one device.

Adults with high levels of income and education are more likely to own a relatively large number of devices, compared with those with lower income and education levels.

About the data: Findings are based on a survey of 3,001 US adults age 18+, conducted from Aug. 9 to Sept. 13, 2010. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish, and the survey included 1,000 cell phone interviews.

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