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Six in Ten Americans Go Online Wirelessly Using a Laptop or Cell Phone

by | 3 minute read

According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, six in ten American adults now go online wirelessly using either a mobile phone or a laptop with a wireless internet connection. Americans are also taking advantage of a much wider range of cell phone data applications than at a similar point in 2009.

Cell phone and wireless laptop internet use have each grown more prevalent over the last year. Nearly half of all adults (47%) go online with a laptop using a Wi-Fi connection or mobile broadband card (up from the 39% who did so as of April 2009) while 40% of adults use the internet, email or instant messaging on a mobile phone (up from the 32% of Americans who did this in 2009). This means that 59% of adults now access the internet wirelessly using a laptop or cell phone-that is, they answered “yes” to at least one of these wireless access pathways. That adds up to an increase from the 51% who used a laptop or cell phone wirelessly in April 2009.

“The growing functionality of mobile phones makes them ever-more powerful devices for on-the-go communications and computing,” said Aaron Smith, Research Specialist and the author of the Pew Internet Project report. “Cell phones have become for many owners an all-purpose chat-text-gaming-photo-sharing media hub that is an essential utility for work and a really fancy toy for fun.”

African-Americans and English-speaking Latinos continue to be among the most active users of the mobile web. Cell phone ownership is higher among African-Americans and Latinos than among whites (87% vs. 80%) and minority cell phone owners take advantage of a much greater range of their phones’ features compared with white mobile phone users. In total, 64% of African-Americans access the internet from a laptop or mobile phone, a seven-point increase from the 57% who did so at a similar point in 2009.

Young adults (those ages 18-29) are also avid users of mobile data applications, but older adults are gaining fast. Compared with 2009, cell phone owners ages 30-49 are significantly more likely to use their mobile device to send text messages, access the internet, take pictures, record videos, use email or instant messaging, and play music.

“The mobile user population is becoming more diverse over time and more people are relying on their cell phones as their primary form of wireless connectivity,” said Smith. “Even as laptops have become more commonplace in recent years, significant numbers of young adults and minority Americans are relying on a cell phone as their on-ramp to the mobile web.”

[Source:  Mobile Access 2010.  Pew Internet & American Life Project. 7 Jul. 2010.  Web.  9 Jul. 2010.]