More than a quarter (28%) of all American adults use mobile or social location-based services of some kind. This includes anyone who takes part in one or more of the following activities:
- 28% of cell owners use phones to get directions or recommendations based on their current location—that works out to 23% of all adults.
- A much smaller number (5% of cell owners, equaling 4% of all adults) use their phones to check in to locations using geosocial services such as Foursquare or Gowalla. Smartphone owners are especially likely to use these services on their phones.
- 9% of internet users set up social media services such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn so that their location is automatically included in their posts on those services. That works out to 7% of all adults.
Taken together, 28% of U.S. adults do at least one of these activities either on a computer or using their mobile phones—and many users do several of them. These figures come from a new national survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and represent Project’s most expansive study of location services to date.
Several groups have higher-than-average rates of location service usage, including:
- Smartphone owners – One in ten smartphone owners (12%) have used a geosocial (“check in”) service such as Foursquare or Gowalla, and 55% of smartphone owners have used a location-based information service. Almost six in ten smartphone owners (58%) use at least one of these services. These are all well above the average for cell owners as a whole.
- Younger users – Smartphone owners ages 18-49 are more likely than those over 50 to use either geosocial or location-based services on their phones. (There are no significant differences among social media users by age in regard to automatic location-tagging.)
- Non-whites – Geosocial services and automatic location-tagging are most popular with minorities, continuing a trend of mobile connectivity that has been seen in other Pew Internet surveys.2 Hispanics are the most active in these two activities, with a quarter (25%) of Latino smartphone owners using geosocial services and almost a third (31%) of Latino social media users enabling automatic location-tagging. However, though only 7% of white smartphone owners use geosocial services, 59% get location-based information on their phones, compared with 53% of blacks and only 44% of Hispanics.
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