Americans Using Phones to Avoid Talking: Pew Report

Americans are using smartphones and cell phones more than ever, and using them to avoid human contact, according to new data from the Pew Research Center.

More than one-third of American adults own a smartphone "of some kind," according to new survey data from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. That's in comparison to the 83 percent who own a cell phone.

In other words, if you ever needed proof that Americans are truly going mobile, it's here. Moreover, Americans have become increasingly dependent on their handsets as they navigate the slings and arrows of daily life: According to the survey, some 27 percent said they'd encountered a situation within the previous month "in which they had trouble doing something because they did not have their phone at hand." Another 13 percent said they'd used their cell phone "to avoid interacting with the people around them."

Most popular cell phone activities included texting and picture-taking (73 percent), followed by sending photos and video to others (54 percent) and accessing the Internet (44 percent). With smartphone users, those percentages were larger: Some 90 percent used their more powerful devices to snap photos or send texts, while 80 percent used it to cruise the Internet or send photos and video.

Smartphones, along with tablets, have increasingly become the center of people's Internet-connected lives. Research firm IHS recently predicted tablet shipments would reach 61.9 million units this year, versus 19.7 million in 2010, helping drive rising adoption of Internet-enabled devices.

"These new figures are the latest evidence that the Internet is not just for PCs anymore," Jordan Selburn, principal analyst for consumer platforms at IHS, wrote in an Aug. 12 statement. "Increasingly, each Internet-enabled electronics device is vying to become the center of what is known as the digital living room, aggregating content throughout the home."

IHS included media tablets in its calculations, but excluded smartphones, which the firm tracks under the metric of wireless communications equipment. "Although IHS officially designates tablets as wireless devices," read the firm's Aug. 12 note concerning the results, "they are being included in the Internet-enabled consumer electronics category because of the key role they are playing in the market for the connected home."

Meanwhile, smartphones continue their burgeoning sales run. According to research firm Gartner, Google Android was the leading smartphone supplier worldwide in the second quarter, with 43.4 percent of the market, followed by Nokia with 22.1 percent, Apple with 18.1 percent and Research In Motion with 11.7 percent. Combined, those percentages represent millions of devices-and millions of opportunities for avoiding interaction with your fellow human beings.

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