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Some 62% of adult Americans have either accessed the internet with a wireless connection away from home or work or used a non-voice data application using their cell phone or personal digital assistant (PDA), according to a Pew Internet Project study (via MediaPost).

Specifically, the report, titled “Mobile Access to Data and Information” (pdf), finds that…

  • 58% of adult Americans have used a cell phone or personal digital assistant (PDA) to do at least one of ten mobile non-voice data activities, such as texting, emailing, taking a picture, looking for maps or directions, or recording video.
  • 41% of adult Americans have logged onto the internet on the go, that is, away from home or work either with a wireless laptop connection or a handheld device.

Overall, 75% of all American adults say they own cell phones – which they now considerable all but irreplaceable.

Asked how hard it would be to give up a specific technology, respondents for the first time say their cell phone would be most difficult to do without, followed by the internet, TV, and landline:

pew-tech-most-difficult-to-give-up.jpg

Non-voice data activities that people access from their cell phones or PDAs (the percentages signify the share of those with cell phones or PDAs):

pew-mobile-data-communications-activities-dec-2007.jpg

The top two such activities:

  • Send or receive text messages: 58% have done this at some point, with 31% saying they do this on a typical day.
  • Take a picture: 58% have taken a picture with their device; 15% say they do this on the typical day.

“People’s growing reliance on their cell phones, together with wireless internet access from laptops, suggests a shift in expectations about cyberspace,” said John B. Horrigan, associate director of the Pew Internet Project and author of the report. “For many people, access to digital information and resources is an ‘always present’ utility for answering questions and documenting what is going on around them through photos or video recording.”

Other findings from the study:

  • Young adults (age 18-29) are most likely, on a typical day, to use their cell phone or PDA to access a non-voice data application; 73% with wireless handheld devices do so. compare with the overall average of 42%.
  • African Americans and English-speaking Hispanics are more likely than white Americans to use cell phones or PDAs for non-voice data applications:
    • Some 56% of English-speaking Hispanics with a wireless handheld device do so on the average day.
    • 50% of African Americans with wireless handhelds do so.
  • Though text-messaging is popular, email is alive and well:
    • On the average day, 60% of those age 18-29 with cell phones or PDAs send or receive text messages.
    • About the same proportion (62%) of internet users in this age group send or receive email on the typical day.

“Notwithstanding predictions of email’s demise, it remains an important part of people’s electronic communications, even among users of text-messaging,” Horrigan said. “The different tools may serve different functions – with texting a way to stay in touch with friends, and email more oriented to officialdom, such as communicating with co-workers or institutions.”

About the study: The data for this report was gathered through telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates between October 24, 2007 and December 5, 2007, among a sample of 2,058 adults, aged 18 and older, with 500 respondents contacted on their cell phones.

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