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Cell Phones Beat Out Internet, TV As Must-Have

The latest Pew survey shows 62% of all Americans have either used a mobile handset for a "nonvoice data application" or accessed the Internet wirelessly.

If you've had a creeping sense that wireless has become more integral to your working and personal lives, then Wednesday's numbers from the Pew Internet Project will confirm it with hard numbers.

Some 51% of those surveyed said their cell phones would be the hardest to give up, followed by the Internet (45%), television (43%), and landline phones (40%). The breakdown is a striking contrast to a similar survey done two years ago when respondents said their landlines would be hardest to relinquish, followed by television, cell phones, and the Internet.

Among its other major findings:

  • 62% of all Americans have either used a mobile handset for a "nonvoice data application" (text, e-mail, picture taking, maps and directions, or recording video, for example) or accessed the Internet wirelessly
  • At 73%, Hispanics send or receive text messages most frequently, followed by African Americans (68%) and whites (53%)

In addition, the study noted that Hispanics in the United States are younger on average than whites or African Americans, but that their "attachment to the cell phone stands out even after controlling for age and other demographic and socioeconomic factors," according to John Horrigan, an associate director at Pew. Hispanics and adults under age 30 also are the biggest users of wireless access or wireless apps away from home or work, he added.

Pew surveyed 2,054 users, including 500 cell phone subscribers in December; the margin of error is plus or minus 3 points.

Here's how surveyed users ranked the nonvoice data apps they use on their cell phones or PDAs in a typical day: send/receive text messages (31%); picture taking (15%); play games (8%); access news, weather, or sports info (7%); play music (7%); instant messaging (6%); record a video (3%); get map or directions (3%); and watch video (3%).

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