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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 4, 2006

How cell phone use is changing

Associated Press

Mobile phones are increasingly becoming computers, phones and Internet accessers all rolled into one. Young people and minorities are the most likely to use them for pictures, text messaging and games.

AP library photo

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WASHINGTON —Young adults and minorities are leading a revolution in how Americans use their cell phones.

People from age 18 to 29 and minorities are more likely to use their phones as personal computers, digital music players, cameras and more, an AP-AOL-Pew poll found.

"We've got everything on my phone," said Mark Madsen, a 24-year-old college student from Chattanooga, Tenn. "I use it mostly for the phone, but I also play video games and use the MP3 player. I pretty much use it all the time."

Almost two-thirds of young adults use their phones to send text messages. More than half use them to take pictures and almost half to play games. They use these features, as well as Internet connections, about twice as often as cell phone users overall.

Minorities were far more likely than whites to use the phones to take pictures, send text messages and use the Internet, though the minority rates were influenced by enthusiasm among Hispanics — who tend to be a younger population, the poll found.

"We think of them as mobile phones, but the personal computer, mobile phone and the Internet are merging into some new medium like the personal computer in the 1980s or the Internet in the 1990s," said Howard Rheingold, an author who has taught at Stanford University and written extensively about the effects of technology.

Most cell phone owners prize them for traditional purposes like staying in touch with family and friends and helping in an emergency. Two-thirds say they would really miss their cell phones if they didn't have them. Three-fourths, say they've used them in an emergency and it really helped.

"When I'm driving to my appointments, everybody calls me on my cell phone," said 26-year-old Abel Yanez of San Jose, Calif, who works in a landscaping business. "When I'm in my office, I use my cell phone because if I need to leave, I just leave. I have the office phone so I can dial up on the Internet."

A fourth say they can't imagine life without their cell phones.

"My cell phone is pretty much a necessity — sometimes a pain but a necessity," said Sandra Moore of Colorado Springs, Colo. "I have children and the cell phone gives me the freedom to be places I need to be. It's easier to communicate with people, you can reach them almost any time.

"But that means people can reach me anytime," she grumbled. "Sometimes, I just turn the ringer off."

Almost one-fourth of those polled say too many people try to get in touch with them on their cell phones — just one of many headaches balanced against the devices' advantages.

The poll also found:

  • More than a fourth, 28 percent, said they sometimes don't drive as safely as they should because they are using a cell phone.

  • More than a third, 36 percent, said they are sometimes shocked at the size of their service bill.