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Pew report: Americans and their cellphones, 2011

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As of 2011, 83% of American adults own a cellphone and 35% own some form of “smartphone.” This equals more than 300 million mobile phones currently in use, up from 86 million just a decade ago.

A 2011 report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, “Americans and Their Cell Phones,” used data from telephone interviews conducted in April and May 2011, among a sample of 2,277 adults aged 18 and older, to catalog how Americans view and use their mobile phones.

Key findings include:

  • Overall, 51% of mobile phone owners use their devices to access information, 42% as entertainment devices, and a full 13% to avoid interacting with the people around them. For users under the age of 29, 70% use them to stave off boredom and 30% have pretended to talk on phones to avoid interpersonal contact.
  • Since an earlier report in May 2010, five of the most prevalent activities had risen significantly, including “sending photos and videos” (up from 36% to 54%), “accessing the Internet” (from 38% to 44%) and “sending and receiving email” (from 34% to 38%).
  • For smartphone users (35% of Americans), 92% take pictures and send text messages (as opposed to just 59% of traditional cell phone users), 84% access the Internet, 76% access email, 69% download apps, 64% play games and 59% record videos. Only 13% of smart phone users, however, utilize video-call or video-chat features.
  • A complementary report by the Pew Center found that 28% of American mobile phone owners use location-based services to get directions or place-based recommendations. This equals 23% of all American adults.

The researchers ultimately found that “cell owners value their phones for quick information retrieval, for entertainment, and for assistance in emergency situations. At the same time, a number of cell owners report that they have turned off their phone to get a break from using it, and that they can have trouble accomplishing desired tasks when their phone is not available.”

Tags: consumer affairs, survey, technology, telecommunications, mobile tech

    Writer: | Last updated: September 14, 2012

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    Analysis assignments

    Read the study titled "Americans and Their Cell Phones."

    1. Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
    2. Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
    3. Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)

    Read the study-related CBS News article titled "13% Fake Talking on Cell to Avoid Speaking with People."

    1. Reporter's use of the study: Evaluate what the reporter chose to include and exclude from the study. Would the audience have acquired a clear understanding of the study's findings and limits from this article?
    2. Reporter's use of other material: Assess the material in the article that is not derived from the study. For example, does the reporter place the study in the context of other research and to what effect? Does the reporter include reactions to the study from other researchers or interested parties (e.g., political groups business leaders, or community members) and are their credentials or possible biases made clear?

    Newswriting assignments

    1. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
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    3. Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
    4. Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.