The number of cell-phone owners who use their phone to go online at least occasionally has nearly doubled over the last three years. That's one of the key takeaways from a new report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
The report, entitled Cell Internet Use 2012, found that 55 percent of the cell phone owners in the U.S. use their phone to go online, which it called "cell Internet users."
17 Percent of All Cell Owners
The 55 percent who occasionally go online via their phone is a large increase from the 31 percent that Pew previously found in April 2009.
Of that 55 percent, the study found that 31 percent use their cell phone as their primary tool for getting online, instead of a desktop or laptop . This works out to be about 17 percent of all adult cell phone owners in the U.S., plus there's another 5 percent of all owners who use both mobile and desktop/laptop equally.
This finding points to a significant portion of the population whose online contact is seen through the limited screen of a cell phone. The number is expected to grow, given the growing demographics of those users who are more likely to use their phones as their primary online device -- young adults and non-whites.
Almost half, or 45 percent, of 18- to 29-year-olds with online access do most of their browsing with their mobile device, and slightly more than half, or 51 percent, of African-Americans do. About 42 percent of Latino cell Internet users are "cell-mostly" surfers, compared with about 24 percent for whites.
Availability, Usage, Access
Additionally, respondents with annual household incomes under $50,000, and those who are not college graduates, are also more likely than those with higher incomes or college degrees to use their cells as their primarily online devices.
The report found three main reasons given by respondents as to why they went online primarily through their cell phones. A key one, cited by 64 percent of respondents, was that cell phones are always on and always available.
In addition, cell phones better match people's online usage habits, although the habits differ. Eighteen percent of cell Internet users say using a cell phone matches their habits most effectively, while about 7 percent said they only use cell phone-based online surfing for basic tasks, which meets their needs. Another 6 percent said going online with a cell phone was simply easier than a regular computer. (continued...)