Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pew Internet News: Americans and their cell phones, for better and for worse; Search and email still most popular activities

Americans and their cell phones

Americans and their cell phonesMobile phones have become a near-ubiquitous tool for information seeking and communicating—83% of American adults own some kind of cell phone—and these devices have an impact on many aspects of their owners’ daily lives. In a nationally representative telephone survey, we found that, during the 30 days preceding the interview:

  • Half of all adult cell owners (51%) had used their phone at least once to get information they needed right away. One quarter (27%) said that they experienced a situation in the previous month in which they had trouble doing something because they did not have their phone at hand.
  • 40% of cell owners said they found themselves in an emergency situation in which having their phone with them helped.
  • 29% of cell owners turned their phone off for a period of time just to get a break from using it.
  • 13% of cell owners pretended to be using their phone in order to avoid interacting with the people around them.

Text messaging and picture taking continue to top the list of ways that Americans use their mobile phones—three quarters of all cell owners use their phones for each of these purposes. Other relatively common activities include sending photos or videos to others, as well as accessing the internet.

One third of American adults (35%) own a smartphone of some kind , and these users take advantage of a wide range of their phones’ capabilities. Fully nine in ten smartphone owners use text messaging or take pictures with their phones, while eight in ten use their phone to go online or send photos or videos to others. Many activities—such as downloading apps, watching videos, accessing social networking sites or posting multimedia content online—are almost entirely confined to the smartphone population.

Report: Search and email still top the list of most popular online activities

Search and email remain the two online activities that are nearly universal among adult internet users, as 92% of online adults use search engines to find information on the Web, and a similar number (92%) use email. Since the Pew Internet Project began measuring adults’ online activities in the last decade, these two behaviors have consistently ranked as the most popular, even as new platforms, broadband and mobile devices continue to reshape the way Americans use the internet and web. Even as early as 2002, more than eight in ten online adults were using search engines, and more than nine in ten online adults were emailing.

Perhaps the most significant change over that time is that both activities have become more habitual. Today, roughly six in ten online adults engage in each of these activities on a typical day; in 2002, 49% of online adults used email each day, while just 29% used a search engine daily.

Presentation: Mind the Gap: Peer-to-peer Healthcare

Peer-to-peer healthcare acknowledges that patients and caregivers know things — about themselves, about each other, about treatments — and they want to share what they know to help other people. Technology helps to surface and organize that knowledge to make it useful for as many people as possible.

Susannah Fox delivered these remarks as part of the "Medicine: Mind the Gap" lecture series at the National Institutes of Health which "explores a wide range of issues at the intersection of research, evidence, and clinical practice—especially areas in which conventional wisdom may lead us astray."

You can read Susannah's remarks in full on our website, and view slides for this presentation as well.

Pew Internet research in the news

Cell Phone Users Admit Faking Calls to Avoid Awkward Interactions
ABC News, August 16

How Americans really use cell phones
CNN, August 16

Top Internet Activities? Search & Email, Once Again
Search Engine Land, August 9

Presentations calendar:

September 18  » Medicine 2.0  Susannah Fox will be the closing keynote speaker at the Medicine 2.0 conference at Stanford University on Sunday, September 18, 2011. (Related video: "Why Medicine 2.0")

She will present the Pew Internet Project's latest research on the use of social networking sites and smartphones -- and how these technologies have transformed the health communications landscape over the last 10 years.

See all upcoming presentations »

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The Pew Internet & American Life Project is an initiative of the Pew Research Center, a nonprofit "fact tank"that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. The Pew Internet & American Life Project explores the impact of the internet on children, families, communities, the work place, schools, health care and civic/political life. Support for the project is provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.