Pew Research Center teamed up with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation on the study, obtaining data from telephone surveys conducted over two four-day periods last December, as well as the American Trends Panel “experience sampling” survey last November, and it found that:
- 64 percent of U.S. adults own smartphones, up from 35 percent in 2011.
- 91 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 used social networks via their smartphones at least once over the course of the study period, compared with 55 percent of respondents 50 and older.
- 75 percent of respondents indicated using social networking on their phones in the previous hour at least once during the study period.
Pew wrote in its study:
Three smartphone features in particular — social networking, watching video and listening to music or podcasts — are especially popular with younger users. Fully 91 percent of smartphone owners ages 18 through 29 used social networking on their phone at least once over the course of the study period, compared with 55 percent of those 50 and older (a 36-point difference). These young smartphone owners reported using social networking in an average of 5.6 surveys, tied with Internet use as the second-most-frequent smartphone behavior among young adults after text messaging.
Activities such as social networking, watching video and listening to music or podcasts vary substantially in terms of their overall popularity. At the high end, 75 percent of smartphone owners indicated using social networking on their phone in the previous hour at least once during the study period, while on the low end, 41 percent used their phone at least once to listen to music or podcasts. But although they differ in terms of their overall usage rates, they share the common characteristic of having especially high rates of engagement among younger smartphone owners.
Pew Research Center senior researcher Aaron Smith said in a release revealing the findings:
The connections to online resources that smartphones facilitate are often most tenuous for those users who rely on those connections the most. A substantial minority of Americans indicate that their phone plays a central role in their ability to access digital services and online content, but for many users, this access may not be available when they need it due to financial stresses or technical constraints.
Knight Foundation director for strategy and assessment Jon Sotsky added:
The growing use of smartphones to access and share information holds tremendous opportunities for news organizations and other content creators to develop new, mobile-friendly ways of capturing audience attention and getting people the information they need. At the same time, the report reveals that ensuring open and easy access to mobile technology is essential to building more informed communities.
Readers: How does your smartphone usage compare with Pew’s findings?