April 16, 2014

New Statistics: 28% of American Adults Use Mobile and Social Location-Based Services

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From a New Pew Internet Report by Kathryn Zickuhr and Aaron Smith:

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.

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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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Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.