November 3, 2010, 3:16 PM

4% of online adults are using location-based services

Apps like Foursquare are most popular among the young, Pew Research Center finds.

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Location-based services is a hot topic in mobile commerce. And there’s a lot of hype around “geosocial” mobile apps such as Foursquare, Gowalla and Shopkick, which enable users with GPS-outfitted smartphones or wireless-equipped laptops to “check in” at locations, such as a retail store, share their location with friends, read comments about that location by other users, and find other users nearby. According to a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, however, it’s still early days.

4% of online adults use a service such as Foursquare or Gowalla. On any given day, 1% of Internet users are using these services. This is the second survey by Pew to ask about location-based services. In a May 2010 survey, 5% of adult Internet users said they had used such an app or site.

Key findings in the current survey include:

  • 7% of adults who go online with their mobile phone use a location-based service.
  • 8% of online adults ages 18-29 use location-based services, significantly more than online adults in any other age group.
  • 10% of online Hispanics use these services, significantly more than online whites (3%) or online blacks (5%).
  • 6% of online men use a location-based service compared with 3% of online women.

Though location-based services typically require a phone with mobile web access and GPS functionality, 2% of non-wireless users (those who do not go online with either a mobile phone or a wireless-enabled laptop) also say they have used a location-based service. This number may include mobile phone users who use geosocial services that enable checking in via text message. These non-wireless respondents may also include individuals who use location-reporting services such as Google Latitude or Dopplr, which can be used on a PC.

The new Pew report is based on the findings of a daily tracking survey on Americans’ use of the Internet. The results in this report are based on data from land-line and mobile telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International between Aug. 9 and Sept. 13, 2010, among a sample of 3,001 adults, age 18 and older.

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