Personal finance
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Looking for tech's future? Watch teenagers
Sometimes it seems like the competition between the major tech companies is a war of attrition, unfolding along many fronts. But as they battle over current market share, are they paying enough attention to the next generation of consumers?

Take the growing e-reader/tablet market. (AMZN) recently announced it's dropping the price of its Kindle Fire HD tablets by up to 20%. A company spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal that lower production costs, especially because of the device's availability in Europe and Japan, allows Amazon to pass those savings on to its customers.

As altruistic as that sounds, Amazon's price cut also targets Apple's (AAPL) iPad. And both Apple and Amazon are losing ground to other competitors like Samsung Electronics (SSNLF), which last night unveiled its Galaxy S 4 -- aimed directly at Apple's iPhone.

While the e-reader slugfest plays out, a survey done last year by R.R. Bowker suggests many teens still remain on the sidelines when it comes to purchasing e-books. However, digital sales of young adult fiction have reportedly been soaring -- as more teens access the latest vampire/werewolf romance saga online.

But don't smirk too much: These teens are the vanguard of digital changes that affect us all. The Pew Research Center says 95% of U.S. teens have online access and 78% now have a cellphone –- with nearly half of them being smartphones.

Given the growing "fluency" of the current crop of teenagers, who were born and raised with the Internet and social media, that's seems logical. But here's something relatively startling: About 25% of teens accessing the Internet do so via their smartphones rather than through desktop or laptop computers.

"The nature of teens' internet use has transformed dramatically -- from stationary connections tied to shared desktops in the home to always-on connections that move with them throughout the day," Mary Madden, senior researcher for the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project and the report's co-author, said on the Pew website.

"In many ways, teens represent the leading edge of mobile connectivity," she notes, "and the patterns of their technology use often signal future changes in the adult population."

So, the next time you find yourself clucking at teenagers with their faces glued to their smartphones, remember they were born in the Internet Age -- and the rest of us are just immigrants learning the language.
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