Pew Survey: Youths, Minorities Lead Growth In U.S. Wireless Internet Access

The majority of American adults access the Internet over some wireless device, but it's still the younger adults who are by far driving the growth of mobile Web applications.

Those are among some of the key findings reported by the Pew Research Center, a non-profit, Washington, D.C.-based public opinion research organization.

In the report, titled Mobile Access 2010, Pew surveyed 2,252 adults aged 18 years or older between April 29 and May 30.

According to the survey, 90 percent of Americans 18- to 29-years-old own a cell phone. Users in that age group are more likely to be accessing a much wider range of mobile data applications than any other age group, with sending and receiving text messages, taking photos, accessing the Internet, playing music, playing games, and recording videos being their most popular activities.

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However, the number of 30- to 49-year-old users accessing those mobile data applications is rising faster than the number of 18- to 29-year-old users, Pew reported.

About 47 percent of adult Americans currently access the internet via a laptop and either a Wi-Fi connection or mobile broadband card, compared to 39 percent last year.

About 40 percent of American adults use the internet, e-mail, or instant messaging from some type of cell phone, up from 32 percent a year ago, Pew reported.

Growth in mobile access by handheld devices is uneven in the U.S., with minority Americans far more likely than Caucasian Americans to access the Internet via wireless devices.

Pew reported that 64 percent of African-American and 63 percent of Latino adults are wireless Internet users, compared to 59 percent of all American adults. This stems in part from the fact that 87 percent of African-Americans and Latinos own a cell phone, compared to 80 percent of white Americans.

The Latino usage figures could actually be higher, as the Pew study only counted English-language speakers in the survey and did not provide a Spanish-language option.

The increase in cell phone owners use of Internet-based applications is rising fast despite the fact that cell phone ownership as a percent of the total population has remained stable over the year, Pew reported.

About 54 percent of cell phone owners used their mobile device to send a photo or video to another user, while 15 percent used them to post a photo or video online. About 23 percent accessed a social networking site via cell phone, while 20 percent used the devices to watch a video.

Recent tragedies such as the Haiti earthquake and the subsequent appeals by charitable organizations to donate via cell phone seems to have tapped the charitable side of cell phone users, 11 percent of whom have used their devices to donate via text message, Pew reported.

The complete report can be read by clicking here.