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Study: Our Smartphones Are Turning Us Into “Real-Time Information Seekers And Problem Solvers”

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Do you regularly use your cell phone to coordinate meetings, solve an unexpected problem, decide which restaurant to eat at, look up the score of a sporting event, check traffic, call help in an emergency situation or find information to help settle an argument? These activities make you a “just-in-time” cell user according to the latest study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. According to this report, 70% of all cell phone owners in the U.S. and 86% of smartphone owners have used their phones to perform at least one of these activities over the last 30 days.

The argument here is that our rapid adoption of smartphones is changing our relationship with information and the way we communicate with each other.

Here is evidence the Pew report cites for how this access to information is “creating a new culture of real-time information seekers and problem solvers:”

  • 41% of cell phone owners used their phone in the previous 30 days to coordinate a meeting or get-together.
  • 35% used their phone to solve an unexpected problem they or someone else had encountered in the previous 30 days.
  • 30% used their phone in the previous 30 days to decide whether to visit a business, such as a restaurant
  • 27% used their phone in the previous 30 days to get information to help settle an argument they were having.
  • 23% used their phone in the previous 30 days to look up a score of a sporting event.
  • 20% used their phone in the previous 30 days for up-to-the-minute traffic or public transit information to find the fastest way to get somewhere.
  • 19% used their phone to get help in an emergency situation
Men, says the report, are more likely to use their phones to look up information to settle an argument than women (31% vs. 22%) and more affluent and more highly educated users are more likely to look up information on their phones than those with lower incomes and those without college degrees.
The Pew study also notes that 65% of smartphone owners now use their phones to get turn-by-turn navigation or directions while driving.

Overall, none of these results should really come as a surprise to anybody who has ever owned a smartphone. Of course people are using their phones to look up traffic information and check a restaurant’s Yelp reviews. Still, it’s interesting to see some relatively hard data that shows how quickly this easy access to information has become a natural part of daily life for so many of us.