In rising numbers, Americans are using their cell phones to go online, text, take photos, play music, and engage in other activities beyond old-fashioned voice calling, affirms a new study called Mobile Access 2010.
More specifically, 40% of adult cell phone owners now do web surfing, e-mail, or instant messaging (IM) on their phones, up from 32% last year, say results of the study from Pew Internet.
This year’s survey also measures additional activities not addressed in the same study last year, including the use of phones for watching videos, accessing social networking sites, Twittering, and purchasing products online, for example.
In other results, younger adults (aged 18 to 29) “were significantly more likely than those in other age groups to engage in all of the mobile data applications we asked about,” according to Pew.
Yet non-voice cell phone apps are also growing fast among 30- to 49-year-olds. For instance, 39% of this older group now use their phones to record videos, an 18-point rise over 2009.
Taking Pictures More Popular than Texting
A total of 34% of American adult cell phone owners aged 18- to 49 are sending and receiving e-mails from these devices, up from 25% last year. To a slightly greater extent, 38% are accessing the Internet from phones, also as opposed to 25% last year.
Yet rather predictably, sending and receiving texts emerged as one of the most widely used cell phone applications, with 72% of respondents in Pew’s 2010 survey acknowledging this activity, in contrast to 65% last year.
More surprisingly, both this year and last year, taking pictures turned out to be the most popular app of all. A total of 76% used the cameras on their phones for still shots, up from 66% in the 2009 survey.
Other gains showed up in playing a game on a cell phone (34% in the 2010 study vs. 27% last year); recording a video (34% vs. 19%); playing music (33% vs. 21%); and sending or receiving IMs (30% vs. 20%)
Twittering and Video Are Popular
Seven questions on the survey are brand new this year. In these results, more than half – or 54% — of all cell phone owners have used their phone to send someone a photo or a video, as opposed to simply taking a photo or recording a video.
Other results here are as follows: accessing a social networking site using a phone (23%); watching a video on a phone (20%); posting a photo or video online (15%); purchasing a product from a phone (11%); making a charitable donation on a phone by texting (11%); and using a mobile phone to access a status update service such as Twitter (10%).
Young Adults Heavily Use their Phone
A whopping nine in 10 of all 18-to-29-year-olds surveyed said they own a cell phone, according to Pew’s 2010 survey.
Somewhat intriguingly, though, among these younger adults, texting from phones is more popular than taking pictures, a reversal of the overall trend. Some 95% of the younger cell phone owners are using their phones to send or receive text messages, in contrast to 93% for taking pictures.
Sending photos and videos to others, at 81%, turned out to be more popular in the younger group than accessing the Internet from a phone, at 65%.
More of the younger grown-ups use their phones to play music (64%) than to play games or record a video (60% for each).
In addition, doing e-mail on a phone (52%) turned out to be less popular among this group than any of these other applications.
Older Adults Get More Active, Too
Beyond recording videos, older adults showed double-digit gains in a number of other cell phone pursuits. In the 2010 results, for example, 83% take pictures from their phones, an increase of 12 percentage points from last year.
Also, 36% of the 30- to 49-year-olds now play music on their phones, up 15 percentage points. Another 35% do IMing on their phones, for a 14-point increase, while 43% access the Internet from their phones, a leap of a dozen percentage points.
Blacks and Hispanics Ahead of Everyone
As in last year’s survey, African Americans and Latinos continued to lead the way in use of non-voice apps on mobile phones.
For instance, while only 13% of non-Hispanic whites have used a cell phone to post a photo or video online, 20% of non-Hispanic blacks have done. So have 25% of English-speaking Hispanics, according to the 2010 results.