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Portland, OR, United States – How many of your friends carry a smartphone? Has that percentage changed dramatically over the last 12-15 months? In my social circle, it definitely has. It used to be that only those who were really well off or had a smartphone provided by work actually toted around smartphones capable of accessing email, applications and web content.

A study that was recently published by the Pew Research Center shows that the smartphone is rapidly becoming one of the main methods that Americans use to access the Internet. In fact, 35% of all adults in the United States own smartphones, of which 68% use their device to access the Internet on a daily basis. Going a bit further, one-fourth of smartphone toting Americans say that their phone is the primary method they connect to the web, forgoing their computers. How do smartphone users describe their phones? See the wordcloud below for some interesting adjectives:

The statistics mentioned above me surprised me at first, but not after giving it some thought. Mobile browsers and mobile apps are so sophisticated these days that for most tasks such as looking up a bit of information or accessing a weather forecast, it’s simple to access your mobile phone and quickly find the information you need. As a web appliance, most smartphones do a really remarkable job.

Looking at the Pew numbers a bit differently, more Americans have smartphones than a college degree. Of the 2,277 U.S. adults surveyed, the highest smartphone ownership levels were amongst populations who are well-educated and young. African American and Latino populations were more likely to own smartphones that whites. In some communities, especially those in urban areas, smartphones are seen as status symbols, even amongst those who have a hard time affording them and make sacrifices in other areas of their lives to afford the monthly cost associated with having an Internet-connected mobile phone.

Nowadays it seems odd that someone doesn’t have a phone capable of these capabilities.  But then again, what’s the definition of a smartphone? In the United States, there are many phones that blur the lines. What used to be called featurephones are now capable of running rudimentary applications. S40 phones can now run apps such as Nokia Maps and Foursquare.

It would have been interesting to me for the Pew report to dig into usage. That is, yes 87% of smartphone owners use their device to access the web or e-mail at least once per day, but what activities are they doing on a regular basis? For me, I couldn’t live without my smartphone, at least – I don’t think  I could. I’m constantly access my work and personal email accounts, utilizing social media sites and messaging both via IM and SMS. Also, utilizing mobile maps is a daily use for me and my smartphone (currently the Nokia N8).

What do you use your smartphone for?

Image credit: robertopinia