U.S. Cell Phone Use Verging on Universal

The Pew Research Center revealed yesterday that cell phone usage continues to grow in number, and continues to expand in function:

"Mobile phones have become a near-ubiquitous tool for information seeking and communicating — 83% of American adults own some kind of cell phone — and these devices have an impact on many aspects of their owners' daily lives."

While the cellphone industry claims 96 percent use — active units divided by the total U.S. population — Pew's Internet & American Life Project called 2,277 adults and inquired about real-life usage. They found, among other things, 73 percent of cell owners use their phones for text messaging and photos, with more than half sending photos and videos to others. Moreover, 44 percent of owners access the Internet.

Actual use of cell phones ranges from critical to enjoyable. Two-fifths of users "said they found themselves in an emergency situation in which having their phone with them helped." At the same time, though, about the same percent "of cell owners used their phone for entertainment..."

In the decade since the first device was marketed as a smartphone, use has grown to exceed one-third of the population, with users "downloading apps, watching videos, accessing social networking sites or posting multimedia content online."

It's clear that cellphones have some limitations as well. One fifth of owners found that downloading was frustratingly slow, and "16 percent had difficulty reading something on their phone because the screen was too small." Nevertheless, few people want to do without the convenience and connectivity of a cell phone.

CWA supports the AT&T/T-Mobile merger because, as a result of merger-related efficiencies, AT&T will extend and enhance high-speed wireless broadband service to virtually every corner of America — making available the broadband that has become essential for health information, education and basic knowledge. The merger will provide capital and experience needed to extend service to rural and other underserved areas, and to improve service in urban areas experiencing dropped calls and slow speeds.

Americans and Their Cell Phones (Pew Internet & American Life Project)

Wireless Quick Facts (CTIA Media)