Smartphones are more important to young adults in the U.S. and three other countries than laptops, desktops or tablets, according to a survey of 1,800 18- to 30-year-old users in 18 countries.
The laptop was still preferred over the smartphone by Generation Y users in the remaining 14 countries in the survey, but usually by only a small margin, according to the online survey of full-time university students and workers between ages 18 to 30 that was conducted by a research unit within Cisco.
It is the third annual survey from the unit, and unusual because the sample size is so large. The results were released Wednesday
Laptops were preferred by 37% of respondents in all 18 countries surveyed, while smartphones were preferred by 32%, desktops by 16% and tablets by 11%. The results are based on the question: If you had to choose just one device to own, which would it be?
The survey showed how vital the smartphone has become to members of Gen Y: 90% said they check their smartphone before school or work -- often before getting out of bed.
"The smartphone seems to be evolving beyond tool status," said Neil Wu Becker, director of global research at Cisco. "It's more of an appendage that satisfies our craving to stay connected, and contributes to our sense of well being."
Becker said it came as a surprise that 71% of those surveyed regularly used fewer than 10 apps -- most for games and entertainment.
The preference for a smartphone over all other computing devices was strongest in South Korea, where 54% of respondents preferred the smartphone. By comparison, 29% of South Korean young adults preferred a desktop system,11% a tablet and just 4% a laptop.
The smartphone was preferred by 41% of U.S. respondents, compared to 39% who liked laptops best, 9% who preferred desktops and 5% listed a tablet. Gen Y users in Japan also preferred the smartphone over the laptop, but the highest preference -- 40% -- was for desktops. Mexico also preferred the smartphone over the laptop, by 43% to 30%.
Smartphones aren't the favorite of everybody, the survey showed.
The biggest support for laptops as the preferred device came in Poland. The survey found that 65% of Polish respondents preferred laptops, while only 11% liked smartphones best.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.