Wireless Internet Use Soaring Thanks to Young People and Minorities
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A new survey shows that people are using their cell phones and laptops to access the Internet now more than ever, with young adults and minorities leading the charge onto the "mobile Web."
The study also revealed that although cell phone ownership has remained stable since a year ago, people are taking greater advantage of all of the features offered by the handheld devices.
The new study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project sampled more than 2,200 people 18 years old and older via telephone. It found that about half of adults go online with a laptop using a Wi-Fi or mobile broadband connection , an increase from 39 percent from a year before. Similarly, two in five adults in the survey used a cell phone to access the Internet or send an email or instant message, up from 32 percent.
All told, 59 percent of adults as of May 2010 are wireless Internet users compared to 51 percent in April 2009, according to the research.
It's more than a phone
Along the way, the use of non-voice data applications on mobile phones has shot up by similar margins. For example, 76 percent of survey respondent said they use their cell phones to take pictures , up from 66 percent in April 2009.
Text messaging also jumped from 65 percent to 72 percent now over the same period, as well as playing games (27 percent to 34 percent), music (21 percent to 33 percent) and instant messaging (20 percent to 30 percent).
Nine out of ten people aged 18 to 29 years has a cell phone and are not afraid to use it as more than a calling device, the study confirmed. Fully 95 percent text messaged, 93 percent took pictures, and 65 percent accessed the Internet.
The middle-aged crowd aged 30 to 49 years has seen the biggest year-to-year spikes in features use on cell phones, however. Following the lead of the younger generation, 83 percent of this cohort currently snaps pictures (a 12 point increase), plays tunes (36 percent now, a 15-point boost) and 43 percent went online (up 12 points).
Digital divide not so divisive
The survey noted that blacks and English-speaking Hispanics (the survey did not include Spanish speakers) utilize their phones' various features and surf the Web from them more than whites.
Slightly more than half of Hispanics and 46 percent of blacks hop online with their phones compared to just a third of whites.
As the study noted, "minority Americans lead the way when it comes to mobile access – especially mobile access using handheld devices . . . continuing a trend we first identified in 2009."
In many ways, the new study finds that the so-called digital divide continues to be bridged. The term applies both to age groups – unsurprisingly, the young seize upon modern devices quicker than their parents and grandparents – as well as ethnicities, with socioeconomically privileged whites traditionally outpacing minorities in the realm of technology adoption.