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Americans use their smartphones for everything from job searches to avoiding contact with others

Smartphones are now the computer of choice for many people around the globe. And while it’s typically thought that only people in developing countries are relying exclusively on their smartphones for the Internet, a new study from the Pew Research Center indicates that Americans are also gravitating more and more to mobile devices to access the Web.

Smartphone dependent

Of the 64 percent of Americans who own a smartphone, 10 percent do not have broadband at home, which means that their smartphone is their sole means for accessing the Internet. An additional 15 percent of smartphone owners say they have a limited amount of alternative ways to go online, and so they rely on their smartphones as well. The study found that one in five American adults either do not have access to broadband or have limited access to the Internet outside of their data plan on their phone.

A range of factors, including income, ethnicity, and age, were relevant to this phenomenon:

  • Money talks: Pew discovered that 13 percent of Americans with an annual household income of less than $30,000 a year  were completely dependent on their smartphones for Internet access. In contrast, just 1 percent of Americans who earn $75,000 and up a year are dependent solely on their smartphone for Internet access.
  • Age is key: Some 15 percent of Americans between 18 and 29 are heavily dependent on their smartphones for Web access.
  • Ethnicity plays a role: Around 12 percent of African Americans and 13 percent of Latinos are smartphone-dependent, but only 4 percent of whites rely only on their smartphones for Internet access.

To make matters worse for smartphone-reliant Internet users, Pew found that a whopping 48 percent of such smartphone-dependent Americans have had to cancel their phone plans for a while because the they could not afford the monthly fees for data and service. In addition, 30 percent of smartphone-dependent users routinely exceed their data cap and 51 percent say it happens often.

Smartphone need

The study turned up some interesting trends among the types of activities smartphone users engage in while on the Web. More than half have looked up a health condition or done online banking on their phones. Slightly less than half have looked up real estate listings, job information, and government services. Some even use their phones to apply for jobs and take classes.

When it comes to news, it turns out that smartphone users love to be up to date on info, with nearly 70 percent following breaking news on their smartphones and sharing thoughts on news stories with friends. Turn-by-turn navigation instructions are similarly popular among smartphone users, though public transit directions are used by just 25 percent of Americans. At this point, almost half of Americans say they couldn’t live without their phones.

smartphone use

One of the funnier parts of the study details how differently younger smartphone owners use their phones from how older Americans do. Some 91 percent of smartphone users between 18 and 29 used social networks on their phone at least once during the study. In contrast, only 55 percent of those 50 and older used social networks.

Perhaps the most revealing divide between the generations involved phone usage designed to avoid other people or to stave off boredom. Around 93 percent of 18-29 year old smartphone users said they used their phones when bored at least once during the week. Additionally, nearly half of smartphone owners in that age group used their phone to avoid other people. Youngsters did so three times more often than older Americans.

The study holds many more cool nuggets of info, so check out the full thing on the Pew Research Center site.