Americans and Their Cell Phones

Aug 15, 2011

Mobile 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, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that, during the 30 days preceding the interview:

  • Cell phones are useful for quick information retrieval (so much so that their absence can cause problems) – 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.
  • Cell phones are an important tool in emergency situations – 40% of cell owners said they found themselves in an emergency situation in which having their phone with them helped.
  • Cell phones can help stave off boredom – 42% of cell owners used their phone for entertainment when they were bored.
  • Despite their advantages, some cell phone owners just need an occasional break – 29% of cell owners turned their phone off for a period of time just to get a break from using it.
  • With advantages comes frustration – 20% of cell owners experienced frustration because their phone was taking too long to download something; 16% had difficulty reading something on their phone because the screen was too small; and 10% had difficulty entering a lot of text on their phone.
  • Cell phones can help prevent unwanted personal interactions – 13% of cell owners pretended to be using their phone in order to avoid interacting with the people around them.

Read the full report, Americans and Their Cell Phones, on the Pew Internet & American Life Project Web site.

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