Usage of Mobile Devices Still Growing Briskly

With so many Americans already in the ranks of Internet users, there’s now little change from year to year in the percentage of the population that’s wired. Even broadband access has grown so much in recent years that the rate of increase inevitably has moderated of late.

So, if you’re on the lookout for significant change in people’s engagement with new technology, where should you look? The results of a Forrester Research survey released late last month suggest it’s in usage of cell phones, smartphones and other wireless devices.

One question in the survey asked adults who have a mobile device to say whether they use it at least once a week to do various things. Fifty-one percent said they use it that often to send or receive text messages, up from 38 percent saying the same in a similar poll last year. There were also significant increases in the number saying they use their mobiles to send or receive picture messages (to 29 percent this year from 20 percent last year), to send or receive e-mail (from 14 percent then to 18 percent now), to access the Internet (from 11 percent to 15 percent) and to listen to music (from 5 percent to 10 percent).

For some functions, though, there’s been little or no growth from last year to this year in the use of mobile technology. For example, the number of respondents saying they use those devices at least once a week to watch TV/videos remains stuck at 3 percent; the number using them to check sports scores/updates is static at 5 percent.

With the economy making it less palatable to see how one’s stock portfolio is faring, there has even been a downtick (from 3 percent to 2 percent) in the number of respondents who use the mobile gadgets to check stock quotes at least once a week.

The report presented a comparison between 18-29-year-olds and all other adults in the proportion who use their mobile devices for various functions at least monthly. The 18-29s were almost twice as likely as their elders to say they use the devices to send or receive text messages (82 percent vs. 43 percent) and more than twice as likely to say they use it to send or receive picture messages (52 percent vs. 23 percent).

As you’d expect, younger adults are especially likely to have gone beyond what Forrester terms the “entry level” mobile activities of e-mailing, texting, sending pictures and instant messaging. For instance, 12 percent of the 18-29-year-olds, vs. 3 percent of all other adults, said they use their mobile device to “access my social network.” And the 18-29s are much more likely than their elders to use the device to play music (22 percent vs. 7 percent) and to play games (28 percent vs. 11 percent).