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pew-usage-of-location-based-services-may2012.jpgThe proportion of smartphone owners who use their device to get directions, recommendations, or other information related to their present location (“location-based information services”) has jumped almost 35% in less than a year, from 55% in May 2011 to 74% in February 2012, according to a May 2012 report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. During the same period, the proportion using a geosocial service such as Foursquare of Gowalla to check in to locations or share their location has risen 50%, from 12% to 18%. Overall, 75% of smartphone owners are now using at least one of these services.

These increases accompany a rise in overall smartphone ownership, meaning that 41% of US adults now get location-based information, and 10% of all adults use geosocial services. Among cell owners, 46% get location-based information, while 11% use a check-in service. This finding is supported by April 2012 survey results from TNS, which found that 40% of US mobile owners currently use location-based services (40%), while an additional 29% are interested in doing so.

Race, Income, Education Groups Offer Varying Patterns

Data from Pew’s report reveals some interesting demographic patterns in the usage of both location-based information services (LBS) and geosocial services by smartphone owners. For example, while the proportion of white non-Hispanic adults using LBS (76%) is higher than both black, non-Hispanics (66%) and Hispanics (71%), black non-Hispanics (21%) and Hispanics (23%) report higher usage of geosocial services than white non-Hispanics (17%).

Similarly, whereas usage of LBS increases alongside higher household income and educational attainment, usage of geosocial services has the opposite trend: those with the lowest incomes and educational levels show the highest adoption of these services.

Other Findings:

  • Usage of these services skews towards younger demographics: 18-29-year-old smartphone owners are 25% more likely to use LBS than those aged 50 and older (80% vs. 64%). The same pattern is evident for use of geosocial services: the younger group is 64% more likely to use them than the older group (23% vs. 14%).
  • Despite relatively lower usage of geosocial services, the proportion of smartphone-owning adults aged 50 and older who are using them has jumped from 2% to 14% in less than one year.
  • Whereas in May 2011, Hispanic smartphone owners were more than 3 times as likely as white, non-Hispanic device owners to have used geosocial services (25% vs. 7%), that gap has narrowed to just 6% points (23% vs. 17%, respectively) as of February 2012.

About the Data: The Pew 2012 results are based on data from telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from January 20 to February 19, 2012, among a sample of 2,253 adults, age 18 and older. Telephone interviews were conducted in English and Spanish by landline (1,352) and cell phone (901, including 440 without a landline phone). The 2011 results are based on interviews conducted from April 26 to May 22, 2011 among a sample size of 2,277 adults aged 18 and older, including 755 interviews conducted on respondents’ cell phones.

There was a slight wording change from the 2011 to the 2012 survey. In May 2011, the question was “Do you ever use your cell phone to get directions, recommendations, or other information related to your present location?” In February 2012, the question was “Do you ever use your cell phone to get directions or other information related to a location where you happen to be?”

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