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Cell Phones Key to Teens’ Social Lives, 47% Can Text with Eyes Closed

by MarketingCharts staff
Cell Phones Key to Teens’ Social Lives, 47% Can Text with Eyes Closed
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Four out of five teens (17 million) carry a wireless device (a 40% increase since 2004), finds the study titled “Teenagers: A Generation Unplugged,” which probes how the growing teen wireless segment is using wireless products and how they want to use them in the future.

Impact on Teen Life

  • A majority (57%) of teens view their cell phone as the key to their social life.
  • Second only to clothing, teens say, a person’s cell phone tells the most about their social status or popularity, outranking jewelry, watches and shoes.

Providing Entertainment and Security

  • More than half of the respondents (52%) agree that the cell phone has become a new form of entertainment.
  • One-third of teens play games on their phone.
  • 80% say their cell phone provides a sense of security while on the go, confirming that the cell phone has become their mobile safety net when needing a ride (79%), getting important information (51%), or just helping out someone in trouble (35%).
  • Teens carry cell phones to have access to friends, family and current events.
  • Though only one in five (18%) teens care to pinpoint the location of their family and friends via their cell phone, 36% hate the idea of a cell phone feature that allows others to know their exact location.

Texting Replacing Talking

The study also confirmed that texting is replacing talking among teens. Teens admitted spending nearly an equal amount of time talking as they do texting each month. The feature is so important to them that if texting were no longer an option 47% of teens say their social life would end or be worsened - that’s especially so among females (54% vs. 40%).

Teens say texting has advantages over talking because it offers more options, including multitasking, speed, the option to avoid verbal communication, and because it is fun – in that order, according to the study.

With more than 1 billion text messages sent each day, it is no surprise that 42% of teens say they can text blindfolded, the study found.

“Teens have created a new form of communication. We call it texting, but in essence it is a reflection of how teens want to communicate to match their lifestyles. It is all about multitasking, speed, privacy and control,” said Joseph Porus, VP & chief architect, Technology Group, Harris Interactive. “Teens in this study are crying for personalization and control of exactly what a wireless device or plan can do for them.”

Devices of the Future

The survey asked teens what future changes they’d like to see in wireless services and devices and found that respondents want cell phones that break boundaries and are personalized to fit their lifestyles.

Teens remain excited and openminded about the wireless possibilities and their ideal future mobile devices would feature five applications – phone, MP3 player, GPS, laptop computer and video player, according to Harris.

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Also on teens’ wish lists are phones that…

  • Guarantee secured data access to the user only (80%)
  • Provide accessibility to personal health records (66%)
  • Present opportunities to be educated anywhere in the world (66%)
  • Bring users closer to global issues impacting teens’ world (63%)
  • Are shockproof and waterproof (81%)
  • Have endless power (80%)
  • Feature a privacy screen (58%)
  • Are made of flexible material and fold into different shapes and sizes (39%)
  • Have artificial intelligence – ask it questions and it gives answers (38%)

“In the future, mobility for teens means mobile banking, mobile voting, location based services, personal entertainment - the sky is the limit for how mobile our lifestyles can be,” said Steve Largent, president and CEO, CTIA - The Wireless Association. “We’ve certainly come a long way in 25 years and expect teens to be a growth driver for the industry and have a major impact on the wireless landscape for years to come.”

About the study: The study was conducted online in July 2008 among a nationally representative sample of 2,089 teenagers (age 13-19) across the US who have cell phones. More than 100 questions were asked on mobile phone usage, attitudes, behaviors, and teens’ desires and aspirations for the future of mobile communications, entertainment, and other features.