Pew: Majority of Smartphone Owners Using Location-Based Apps

Smartphone use is on the rise, and so are location-based services and geo-social apps, such as Foursquare and Gowalla, according to the Pew Research Center.

Smartphone use is on the rise, and growing alongside it is Americans€™ comfort with real-time location-based apps and geo-social service like Foursquare and Gowalla, according to a May 11 report from the Pew Research Center€™s Internet & American Life Project.

In a February survey, Pew found, 74 percent of smartphone owners are now using location-based information services€”up from 55 percent in a May 2011 poll. Geo-social services, up from 12 percent last May, were used by 18 percent of smartphone users, as of this February.

€œThis increase coincides with a rise in smartphone ownership overall (from 35 percent of adults in 2011 to 46 percent in 2012), which means that the overall proportion of U.S. adults who get location-based information has almost doubled over that time period,€ states the report, €œfrom 23 percent in May 2011 to 41 percent in February 2012.€

That 18 percent of smartphone owners now using geo-social services is also more impressive than at first glance. The number, says Pew, translates to now 10 percent of all adults using the service€”more than double the 4 percent in May 2011.

Additionally, 75 percent of smartphone owners use at least one of these services, and nearly everyone who uses geo-social services€”93 percent€”says they€™ve used location-based directions and other information.

Women are slightly more enthusiastic users of both services€”75 percent report using location-based services to 73 percent of men, and 20 percent of women have used geo-social services, compared with 17 percent of men.

Across three age segments, younger users are in all cases more like users of both types of software, and White smartphone owners are more likely than Hispanic smartphone owners, who are more likely than Black smartphone owners to use location-based services (76, 71 and 66 percent, respectively). That reverses, though, for geo-social services, which are used by 23 percent of Hispanic smartphone owners, 21 percent of Black smartphone owners and 17 percent of White smartphone owners.

(Pew clarifies that €œBlack€ also means non-Hispanic and €œWhite€ also means non-Hispanic. Curiously, Pew doesn€™t segment out Asian-Americans. In a 2010 blog post, however, Evans Witt, principal and CEO of Princeton Survey Research Associates International, explained that this is because Asians represent a small slice of the U.S. population, making them difficult to analyze with accuracy.)

Another notable reversal: €œWhile smartphone owners in lower-income households are less likely to use location-based information services,€ says Pew, €œthey are more likely to use geo-social services like Foursquare.€

Earlier this year Pew announced that nearly half of all Americans€”46 percent, as a poll conducted Jan. 20 through Feb. 19 shows€”are now smartphone owners, up from 35 in May 2011. That report also found those between 25 and 34 years old to be the largest group of smartphone owners, followed by 67 percent of 18 to 24 year olds.

Arguably, however, it was Pew€™s March study on teens and smartphone use that was the most jaw-dropping of all. While the median number of text messages sent per day rose from 50 messages in 2009 to 60 messages in 2011€”among users 12 to 17 years old€”older teen girls had by far the most to say. Compared with teen boys, who sent a median 50 texts per day, girls the same age were sending a median of 100 text messages per day in 2011.

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