Study Shows Texting, Social Media Popular Worldwide


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Pew Research Center has released the results of a 21-country survey on mobile phone usage. The study cast a wide net, covering countries of widely varying economic status - from the United States and Japan to Indonesia and Kenya.

In almost every country surveyed the majority of the population owned a mobile phone - the lone exception was Pakistan, where ownership is at 48%, though the percentage in several countries was less than 60%. The country with the highest percentage of mobile phone ownership was Spain, at 96%, while in the US 85% of the population owns a mobile phone. In most of these countries, ownership was highest among younger age groups, or those with higher levels of education. College graduates and people under the age of 30 were most likely to have a phone.

Survey Results

In addition to mobile phone ownership, the survey also examined the most common uses of mobile phones in each country: voice, text, picture/video, and internet usage. As should probably be expected, the vast majority of mobile phone users in every country use their phones for voice calls. Several countries clocked in at 100% voice usage. Nearly every other country was in the 90s, with the exception of Germany and Britain, where just 82% and 87% of phone owners use their devices for voice calling, respectively.

As might be expected, texting is the second most common activity among mobile phone users. Though the numbers for text usage are not as high as voice usage, still in most countries the majority of mobile phone owners text. Only in India (49%) and Pakistan (44%) do fewer than half use their phones for text. In the US 67% of phone owners text, while the highest percentage is in Indonesia, where a whopping 96% of people who have mobile phones use the for texting.

Results for picture and video usage were consistently lower than voice and text usage, though they showed a wide disparity in results from country to country. While most results were in the 40s or 50s, some were in the 20s and 30s. Pakistan scored lowest: only 9% of Pakistanis use their phones to send pictures or texts. Meanwhile, in Japan fully 72% of mobile phone owners use them for taking pictures or video. Mexico is in seocnd place with 61%, while the US is tied with Israel for third place at 57%.

Mobile internet usage figures were consistently lower than picture and video usage, and were similarly varied. The authors of the study speculate that the difference stems from the widely varied availability of internet access in the surveyed countries. Unlike other usage categories, in no surveyed country do a majority of mobile phone owners use their phones In the US 43% of mobile phone owners use their phones to access the internet, while 47% each of Israeli and Japanese phone owners do the same. Pakistan again had the lowest score, at 6%. The survey does not appear to have differentiated between those who own smartphones and those who do not.

The study also examined (separately) social networking usage among adults. In this section the results are broken down according to those who have internet access and those who do not. The highest percentage of social network use is in the US and Israel, where 50% and 53%, respectively, of all adults are members of social media networks. While usage tends to drop considerably in some countries, the primary reason is a lack of internet access. In almost every country surveyed a considerable majority of internet users were also social network users. For example, while 19% of the population of Kenya use social networking, only 26% of the population even has internet access. That means that 73% of Kenyan internet users are members of social networks.

As mentioned above, the study found significant differences in mobile phone and social network use between age groups and education levels. The young and the more educated are far more likely in every country to own mobile phones and to participate in social networking. The study found almost no difference in usage between genders, however. The notable exceptions being Spain, Germany, and Turkey.