Pew: Mobile phones have become 'near-ubiquitous tool' for info retrieval

Do smartphone owners use their mobile devices for phone calls or more so for other purposes? A new survey provides some insight.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

Smartphones are more for just making phone calls, a new report from Pew Research suggests. Going so far as to label the cell phone as "a near-ubiquitous tool" for looking up information, smartphones are often times uses for looking up data while on the go, when bored and even just to avoid interactions with other people.

Here are some of the highlights from the survey:

  • 51 percent of cell phone owners have used their devices to retrieve information they needed right away at least once
  • 40 percent have found themselves in an emergency situation in which having a phone with them helped
  • 42 percent used their phones for entertainment when bored
  • 13 percent of users pretended to be using their phones to avoid interacting with the people around them

However, only less than a third of cell phone owners admitted to being brave enough to actually power off their phones just to get a break from using them.

For reference, the survey was conducted by telephone (how fitting) in English and Spanish between April 26 to May 22, 2011. Results are based on responses from 2,277 adults. Based on this group, Pew determined that at least 83 percent of American adults own some kind of cell phone, and at least 35 percent own a smartphone.

Most of the survey results for the categories listed above tended to rise for young adult users between the ages of 18 and 29. For example:

  • 70 percent have used their phones for entertainment when bored
  • 64 percent have used their phones to retrieve needed info quickly
  • 30 percent have used their phones to avoid interacting with the people around them

You know you've used your phone to avoid awkward silence at some point.

Also, not everyone has had such a great time with their mobile devices. One fifth of cell owners have been frustrated because their phones took too long to download something, 16 percent had difficulty because they thought the screens were too small, and 10 percent had issues with entering text.


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