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It took 34 years, but the majority of American households have finally ditched landlines

AP Photo/Joe Rosenthal
“Hello, this is the past calling.”
  • Mike Murphy
By Mike Murphy

Technology editor

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

If you’re in the US and your phone is ringing, chances are, you’re going to have to stop reading this article to answer it.

For the first time, a majority of households, and of US adults in general, say that they have a mobile phone as their only phone, according to a new survey from the US Centers for Disease Control’s health statistics research department. The CDC’s data, which was gathered between July and December 2016, shows that 50.8% of households, and 50.5% of adults, are now living without a landline phone.

Younger adults (aged 25 to 34) and adults who rent rather than own their homes are more likely to have eschewed landlines. About 70% of each group was wireless only, while roughly 40% of all US households maintain both landline and cellphone service.

In any case, it’s a remarkable shift since the first cellphones were sold in the US in 1983. (Motorola invented the cellphone in 1973, but it took a decade for the devices to become commercially available.)

The CDC researches Americans’ phone usage as a way of determining any potential health issues for the general population. “Wireless-only adults are more likely to drink heavily, more likely to smoke and be uninsured,” Stephen Blumberg, the study’s co-author, told the AP. “There certainly is something about giving up a landline that appeals to the same people who may engage in risky behavior.”

But at some point, it will be impossible to distinguish wireless-only users from everyone else, because they’ll be one and the same. As Quartz reported back in 2014, more people around the world have cell phones than ever had landlines, with there being about as many global cellphone subscriptions as there are people in the world.

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