Expert Commentary

Pew Research Center: Cell Internet use 2012

2012 survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project investigating the extent to which cell phones are being used for online activities

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Cell phone ownership rates in the United States grew from 82% in 2007 to 88% in 2012, according to a Pew Internet and American Life Project survey. As access to free or low-cost networks continues to grow, to what extent are these mobile devices being used to access the Internet?

The 2012 Pew survey, “Cell Internet Use 2012,” investigated the extent to which cell phones are being used for online activities. The project conducted a national cell phone survey of 2,254 adults and 903 interviews from March 15 to April 2, 2012.

Key study highlights include:

  • Among American adults who owned a cell phone in spring 2012 — an estimated 88% of the population — a majority of these owners (55%) used their phones to access online content. This represents a 24 percentage point increase from the number of cell phone owners who accessed the Internet from their mobile phones in 2009 (31%).
  • High rates of mobile Internet use were found among 18-24 year olds (75%) and 35-44 year olds (68%), Blacks and Latinos (approximately 67%), urban (62%) and suburban (56%) residents. “The fastest-growing group… is 25-34 year olds — fully 80% of cell owners in this age group now use their phones to go online, a 37-point increase from the 43% of such cell owners who did so in 2009.”
  • While nearly 70% of senior citizens own a cell phone, only 16% of them used them to access the Internet. (This may be connected to the proliferation of low-cost calling plans tailored for elderly users that typically offer limited online access.)
  • Of those who access the Internet from their cell phones, 31% — and 17% of all adult phone owners — reported that they go online primarily from their mobile devices. Phone owners with education levels of some college or less (84%), and household incomes of less than $30,000 (43%), used their phones as the primary method of accessing online content, as did Blacks (51%).
  • The most common reasons cited for using a cell phone instead of a computer to go online were the convenience and availability of mobile devices. However, 10% of those who used their phones primarily to go online stated that they did so because of unreliable Internet access at home, school or work.

The report notes that the large increase in cell phone Internet usage in the past two years corresponds to the increase of smart phone users in the same time period.

Tags: consumer affairs, technology, telecommunications, mobile tech

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