Although cell phones are now owned by 85 percent of adult Americans, a new report from the Pew Research Center indicates that many users value their mobile handsets for reasons other than being able to communicate with others. A significant percentage of the respondents to the organization's latest survey said their phones were used as stage props for nonexistent conversations to avoid interacting with people around them.
Of the 2,227 respondents that Pew surveyed by telephone between April 26 and May 22, 13 percent admitted they faked at least one phone conversation during the past 30 days. Among smartphone owners, 20 percent admitted doing the same. By contrast, only six percent reported accessing Twitter on their phones during the same period.
Many U.S. adults also are relying on their handsets in boring situations, with 42 percent of the respondents saying they staved off boredom in the previous 30 days by accessing entertainment on their phones. Among smartphone owners, 72 percent admitted staving off boredom.
Popular Handset Activities
For U.S. handset users, the most common activities are texting and picture-taking (73 percent), sending photos or videos to others (54 percent), and accessing the Internet (44 percent).
A higher percentage of smartphone users -- representing 35 percent of the U.S. adult population -- reported using their advanced mobile devices to conduct the most popular activities. According to the Pew survey, 92 percent of smartphone users reported texting and picture-taking, 84 percent accessed the Internet, and 80 percent sent photos or videos to others. The two least-prevalent activities among smartphone users were accessing Twitter (15 percent) and participating in a video call or chat session (13 percent).
More than half the survey's respondents said they used their mobile handsets to quickly retrieve useful information, and 40 reported being in an emergency situation where having a cell phone helped. On the other hand, sometimes having a cell phone can be downright annoying.
Pew researchers noted that 29 percent of the survey's respondents said they switch off their phones from time to time just to get a break. Moreover, 20 percent reported frustration about the time needed to download something with a handset.
The prevalence of handset activities can vary widely among the various demographic groups comprising the U.S. adult population. For example, only six percent of all mobile-phone users over the age of 65 reported checking their bank balances or performing online banking, whereas 29 percent of adults between ages 18 and 29 said they did.
Ethnicity also plays a role in cell-phone activities related to banking. For example, 27 percent of black and 25 percent of Hispanic respondents said they used their handsets for banking. By contrast, only 15 percent of Caucasians used their handsets for online banking.
Only two percent of the survey's respondents over the age of 65 reported using their phones for social networking. However, 50 percent of adults 18 to 29 said they did.