A recent Pew Research Center study has found that 20% of Americans rely on a smartphone as their primary means of accessing the Internet, according to USA Today.
“Their phone is really their primary access point for all of the things we take for granted in the online space,” said Aaron Smith, one of the writers of the study.
An estimated 89% of American adults use the Internet, which has become a practical necessity for many tasks in society today. From submitting job applications to connecting with far-away relatives and doing homework, the Internet has dominated many activities that traditionally were performed in person, by mail, or over the phone — and this new reality puts millions of Americans at a disadvantage.
Search engines in particular have become some of the most widely used applications in the world. Nearly 93% of all sessions on the Internet start with a search engine inquiry.
For those Americans who are “smartphone reliant,” however, even going on Google can be a hassle. Because smartphones are relatively smaller (and slower) than tablets and computers, using them to write a long email, for example, can be difficult. What’s worse, the study reveals that half of smartphone-dependent users had to cancel their phone service at least once because they were unable to pay for it. Of those who have had to cancel their phone service, three out of 10 claim to “frequently” reach their data limit and five out of 10 claim to “occasionally” overreach, according to tech blog Silicon Beat.
The study also revealed that smartphone-dependent users are as a whole younger, poorer, and poorly educated. In addition, minority communities represent a disproportionate amount of the group.
In terms of economic status, the study found that lower-class Americans are more likely to be smartphone-dependent than the middle class. Thirteen percent of American households that earn learn less than $30,000 are smartphone-dependent. In contrast, only 1% of American households that earn $75,000 or more are smartphone-dependent.
The authors of the study are concerned that smartphone-dependent users as well as many other users that lack basic Internet services are in danger of missing out on important functions in work, home, government, and other areas of life.
“Even though [sic] this is their lifeline to services that all of us take for granted,” Smith said, “it isn’t always there when they need it.”