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Pew: 56% of U.S. mobile users access the Internet via handsets

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Mobile customers are increasingly using their handsets for services beyond the basic calling and texting. Yet while more than half of U.S. mobile customers have accessed the Internet via their handset, only 29 percent have used their handset to check their bank accounts, according to a new report.

"Cell users now treat their gadget as a body appendage. There is striking growth in the number of people who are taking advantage of the growing number of functions that these phones can perform, and there isn't much evidence yet that the pace of change is slowing down," said Lee Rainie, director, Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.

Fifty-six percent of mobile phone owners now access the Internet through their phone, up from only 25 percent in 2008. "This is especially prevalent among those under 50, the well-educated, and those living in households with a higher annual income. African-Americans and Hispanic cell phone owners are more likely than whites to access the Internet through their phone," according to the Pew report.

Source: Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project

The need for more robust mobile network uplink capabilities is being driven by user-generated video, and Pew reports that 44 percent of mobile customers have used their phones to record video, up from only 18 percent in 2007. "Those ages 18-29 are the most likely to do so, with nearly seven out of 10 young people reporting this behavior. African-Americans, those who live in households with higher incomes and the college-educated are also more likely to record video on their phone," said Pew.

Despite the robust application ecosystems that have developed around device operating systems such as Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS and Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android, less than half of the mobile user population has downloaded apps. According to Pew, the number of mobile handset owners who have used their phones to download apps has grown to 43 percent from 22 percent in 2009. The demographics of likely app downloaders closely mirror those of those who have recorded video on their phones.

Mobile email has become more prevalent, with the number of mobile customers who have used their phones to access email reaching 50 percent, up from 19 percent in 2007.

The use of mobile handsets to obtain health information is expanding, with nearly one third of mobile customers reporting that action, up from only 17 percent just two years ago.

Mobile banking is also picking up steam, with 29 percent of mobile customers using their handset to check to check a bank account. Only 18 percent reported doing so last year.

Some activities are nearly universal among U.S. mobile phone owners. Taking pictures is the most popular cellphone activity, said Pew, and is engaged in to some degree by all demographic groups, though young adults and those who live in households with relatively higher incomes are the likeliest to snap a photo with their mobile phone.

In addition, Pew said the vast majority--80 percent--of mobile customers send and receive text messages, though the activity is less prevalent among mobile phone owners 65 and older. Texting is nearly universal among young adults, ages 18-29.

Pew's findings were gathered via two Internet tracking surveys that were conducted this year via landlines and cellular phones and in English and Spanish.

For more:
- see this Pew Internet webpage

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