The majority of smartphone users (74%) get real-time, location based information on their smartphones, according to a new study from the Pew Internet and American Life
The study found that 41% of smartphone users
get location info from their phones, up from 23% in May 2011. Such apps include
GPS, weather apps, or ones that let you know
where your friends are currently congregating or how close you are to the
newest movie, trendiest restaurant or urgent care center.
For example, the study found that the
percentage of respondents who use "geosocial" services like
Foursquare is now 10%, up from only 4% in 2011.
The number of those smartphone users has
jumped as well, from 35% of adults in May 2011 to 46% as of February 2012), and
there are now smartphone owners than those without them among the cellphone-owning population.
That rise in tracking applications has become
an issue in Washington, where legislators
are trying to figure out how to protect privacy while not discouraging the Internet
economy and its users that, as the study indicates, have a healthy interest in
location-based services. But it is the potentially unhealthy interest that has
some in Washington concerned. For
example, the same app info that lets a parent know where their child is could
also provide that data to a predator if they can get access to it. One
senator last year introduced a bill to prevent the sharing of geolocation info
with the government.
The issue was also spotlighted last year by
Google's admission it was collecting user data as part of its Street View
mapping initiative, and Apple's admission that geolocation information
being collected by iPhones was being stored too long and not sufficiently
"We've watched mobile phones become
increasingly entwined in people's everyday activities, and location-based
services are an important part of that," said Pew Internet Research Specialist
and report author Kathryn Zickuhr in announcing the survey.
That is not the case for some demos, however.
Only 13% of seniors 65-plus have smartphones, up only a couple of percentage
points from 11% in 2011 (and within the statistical margin of error).
For those without a college degree, the figure
is 25%, which is up 7 percentage points from last year but still only half the
Folks are getting more familiar with their
smart phones. This year, only 8% did not know whether or not they have one.
Last year it was 14%.
The study is based on telephone interviews
with 2,253 respondents 18 and older, conducted Jan. 20-Feb. 19, with a
plus/minus sampling error of 2.3 percentage points, to a 95% degree of
certainty (the latter a common caveat with surveys).