That marks a new high and a jump from last year's ownership levels of 15 percent, according an Ipsos announcement this week. It's nearly double the ownership rate reported in 2003 (11 percent).
"Over the past year, the portable MP3 market has really matured, and we are now seeing not just new buyers entering this market, but also growing levels of multiple device ownership," said Matt Kleinschmit, a Vice President with Ipsos Insight and author of TEMPO, Keeping Pace With Digital Music Behavior.
Kleinschmit said in a prepared statement that the trends indicate satisfaction and "habitualized behavior."
"What is perhaps most interesting about this is that experienced portable device owners are now buying new players with a level of usage and storage capacity knowledge unseen just a few years ago," he said. "Understanding how these unique buyers are adapting specific players to different usage activities and locations will provide manufacturers and content providers alike with a compelling perspective on where the increasingly important portable media category may be heading."
Half the teens in America own MP3 players and one-third of people from age 18 to 34 own them, according to the quarterly report. Thirteen percent of people between 35 and 54 said they own a portable MP3 player.
More men (25 percent) own the devices than women do (16 percent), according to Ipsos.
One in four owners believe their devices can play video, and interest in viewing music videos, photos, television shows and full-length movies is especially strong among young consumers with experience downloading music, according to the study.
Nearly half (46percent) of teens and college-aged downloaders said they are interested in portable FM radio and 39percent express interest being able to access satellite radio on their portable devices. About one-third of 25 to 54 year old downloaders reported interested in FM and Satellite Radio capabilities (37percent and 32percent, respectively).
"These recent findings showing the desire for broader multimedia content on a portable device could suggest we are reaching a turning point in which consumers are truly recognizing the value of anytime, anywhere multimedia content on-the-go," Kleinschmit said.
Given young people's strong levels of ownership and heightened frequency of usage, demand is likely to continue to grow, he said.
More than 1,100 people participated in the study from April 24 to May 2, 2006. More information about the methodology of the report is available on Ispsos' Web site.