The FINANCIAL — Mobile internet and data usage is becoming more popular overall as smartphones proliferate and feature phones become more sophisticated, but not all adults are taking up the new habits at the same pace.
A May 2010 study from the Pew Internet & American Life Foundation found that non-Hispanic white adults are still the least likely group to own a mobile phone, at 80%, compared with 87% of black and Hispanic adults. And they’re doing less with the phones they have.
A majority of English-speaking Hispanic adults accessed the internet from their mobile phone, and nearly as many checked email. Black respondents were not far behind, but among whites only a third went online and 30% used email. This pattern was repeated across all mobile data activities studied.
Broadening the scope of wireless activities to include the use of laptops with either the mobile internet or Wi-Fi access, white respondents were still behind, though they were more likely to say this was their only method of accessing the wireless internet.
Notably, while wireless access overall rose with income, the less affluent dominated the ranks of those with mobile internet service only on their cellphone. This mirrors earlier results from Pew on teens and the mobile web. While low-income teens, as well as black and Hispanic respondents, sometimes lacked home internet access, they closed the digital divide by accessing the internet via their mobile phones. Lower-income adults appear to be doing the same.
While some groups lag behind, mobile data use is indisputably on the rise. Pew found that overall 38% of US adult mobile owners accessed the internet on their phone in May 2010, up from 25% in April 2009. With younger adults clearly leading the way on mobile and wireless internet access, and teens mobile-obsessed, such increases will continue.