Americans and Their Smartphones

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Pew Research rolled out its latest survey about how Americans use their cell phones. Now we are beginning to see how the newer smartphones change use habits.

In the report, Pew compared patterns of behavior. From this, you can see trends. I was hoping to discover the disadvantages of smartphones but, apparently, there are none. All mobile phone activity increases sharply for users of smartphones. In other words, people use their smartphones too much.

Immediately, this tells me one thing. Those ads that Microsoft did, showing someone totally enamored of their smartphone, were very accurate. But Microsoft was mistaken in thinking that people didn't like it that way. The company tried to sell Windows Phone 7 as a way one could avoid being preoccupied with their smartphone all day. According to Pew, people are gravitating in the other direction. Perhaps making the smartphone do even more would be a good idea for marketers.

The majority of common mobile phone users only use a phone for two things other than making calls: taking pictures and text messaging. And both of those functions are used even more by smartphone users. Everything else is minor for regular phone users.

Over 50 percent of smartphone users access the Internet, send photos, email, download apps, play games, listen to music, record videos, watch videos, and access social networks. Essentially, these are all new uses for the mobile device. Note that none of these actually involve making a voice call, which is why the mobile phone was invented.

One of the only surprises in the study was the fact that 64 percent of smartphone users employ the device for listening to music while only 12 percent of other cell owners do this. I realized that the pre-smartphone users may listen to as much music but by using an iPod. This tells me that the iPod is going to be killed by the smartphone.

The survey also tells me that a lot of people are spending too much time diddling around with these devices. No wonder the phones are the major topic of conversation on all the tech publications. Hey look, even I'm writing about them in this column!

It's interesting to note how the usage pattern has changed public sociology. Five years ago you would have seen people all over town walking down the street yakking into these phones as if they absolutely had to be chatting all the time. Today, on our busy city streets you’ll see at least half of these people texting or reading texts or looking over their email while walking.

This is so pervasive and ridiculous that many states have had to implement harsh laws to keep folks from texting while driving. A few years ago, they were trying to pass laws to keep people from chatting on the phone while driving, now it's using the phone for other things. I use my Nexus S for navigation while driving. That's probably not good either.


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