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10% of Americans own a smartphone but do not have broadband at home, and 15% own a smartphone but say that they have a limited number of options for going online other than their cell phone.
Nearly half (48%) of smartphone-dependent Americans have had to cancel or shut off their cell phone service for a period of time because the cost of maintaining that service was a financial hardship.Throughout this report, we refer to this latter group as “smartphone-dependent” users.Certain groups of Americans rely on smartphones for online access at elevated levels, in particular: Compared with smartphone owners who are less reliant on their mobile devices, these smartphone-dependent users are less likely to own some other type of computing device, less likely to have a bank account, less likely to be covered by health insurance, and more likely to rent or to live with a friend or family member rather than own their own home.Younger smartphone owners are especially avid users of text messaging, but this group has by no means abandoned voice calls — 93% of smartphone owners ages 18-29 used voice or video calling on at least one occasion during the study period, and reported doing so in an average of 3.9 surveys.Email has long ranked as one of the most common activities that users take part in online since the desktop/laptop era, and it continues to play a prominent role in the mobile era as well.Smartphones help users navigate the world around them, from turn-by-turn driving directions to assistance with public transit. An “experience sampling” of smartphone owners over the course of a week illustrates how young adults have deeply embedded mobile devices into the daily contours of their lives.
The experience sampling survey illustrates that smartphone usage often produces feelings of productivity and happiness, but that many users also feel distracted or frustrated after mobile screen encounters.The survey measured reliance on smartphones for online access in two different ways — first, by asking smartphone owners whether or not they have traditional broadband service at home, and second, whether they have a reasonable number of options for accessing the internet in general from any location.It found that: of these conditions apply — that is, they do not have broadband access at home, and also have relatively few options for getting online other than their cell phone.When asked to choose from a series of statements representing how they feel about their phone, a substantial majority of smartphone owners feel that these devices are “helpful” rather than “annoying,” “connecting” rather than “distracting,” and that they represent “freedom” rather than a “leash.” At the same time, smartphone owners are relatively divided on the essential necessity of mobile connectivity: 54% say that their phone is “not always needed,” while 46% say that it is something they “couldn’t live without.” And while a substantial 80% majority of smartphone owners describe their phone as “worth the cost,” 19% — and 29% of those who pay more than 0 per month for service — describe it as a “financial burden.” In addition to the surveys of smartphone owners that form the main findings of this report, the Pew Research Center also conducted an “experience sampling” survey of smartphone owners as part of this project.In the experience sampling survey, smartphone owners were contacted twice a day over a period of one week and asked how they had used their phone in the hour prior to taking the survey.Smartphone ownership is especially high among younger Americans, as well as those with relatively high income and education levels.