A new study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project offers a glimpse into how Americans are using their cellphones, from looking up information to pretending to appear busy.
Pew asked over 2,000 adults to answer questions about how they had used their phones in the 30 days prior to the survey and found that 83 percent of the people surveyed own some type of cellphone, while 35 percent of all individuals surveyed own smartphones.
So what are Americans doing with these gadgets?
Forty-two percent told Pew that they "used their phone for entertainment when they were bored." Nearly the same number (40 percent) said their phone had been useful in an emergency and slightly more (51 percent) answered that they relied on their phone to access information "they needed right away."
Though cellphones have been praised for their ability to instantly connect people wherever they are, whenever they want, over one in ten said that the technology has been useful for avoiding others: "Cell phones can help prevent unwanted personal interactions," wrote Pew. "Thirteen percent of cell owners pretended to be using their phone in order to avoid interacting with the people around them."
People also need a break from their phones and Pew notes that 29 percent of users will turn off their phones occasionally.
Texting and taking photos ranked among the most popular uses of mobile phones among this year's respondents, 73 percent of whom said they used their phones for these activities. By contrast, Pew found that 66 percent of cellphone owners used their phones to take pictures in April 2009, a proportion that increased to 76 percent by May 2010. Sixty-five percent of people surveyed said they used their phones for messaging in April 2009, while 72 percent said they did the same in May 2010.
Interestingly, Pew's survey did not mention how frequently users placed calls using their phones. This differs from the 2010 report, which found that "two of the main uses of the cell phone are voice calling and text messaging."
Another recent Pew study found that the two most popular online activities were email and search.