Mobile phones have become a near-ubiquitous tool for information seeking and communicating — 83% of American adults own some kind of cell phone. Half of all adult cell owners (51%) have used their phone at least once to get information they needed right away. Four-in-ten (40%) cell owners said they found themselves in an emergency situation in which having their phone with them helped. An almost equal number (42%) used their phone for entertainment when they were bored. Owners also used cell phones to stave off personal contact with others — 13% of cell owners pretended to be using their phone in order to avoid interacting with the people around them. As useful as cell phones have become, owners have found some downsides. Nearly three-in-ten (29%) turned their phone off for a period of time just to get a break from using it. One-fifth of cell phone owners (20%) experienced frustration because their phone was taking too long to download something. Difficulty reading text on their phones’ small screen was a problem for 16%, and 10% said they had difficulty entering a lot of text on their phone. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.