January 8, 2013, 1:19 PM

Nearly half of smartphone owners research products via the mobile web

And 23% make purchases from their handheld devices, a new poll shows.

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45% of smartphone owners turn to their trusty pocket companions to research goods, a new poll from Harris Interactive finds. However, a smaller number, 23%, use their mobile devices to make a purchase.

The Harris Poll, which surveyed 991 smartphone and computer users online in November, finds more consumers turn to their PCs to research goods and services (81%) and make purchases (78%).

There are no surprises when it comes to what smartphone owners use their devices for the most. Messaging ranks first with 87% of smartphone owners using their mobile devices to send text or instant messages, the survey says.

Mapping/navigation (73%) comes in second as the most common smartphone activity.  Meanwhile, 56% of respondents use their desktop computers for those purposes.

E-mail is also a top smartphone activity.  67% of smartphone owners read personal e-mail on their devices and 38% read work e-mail, the survey says. However, a smaller 56% write personal e-mail and only 32% say they write work e-mail from their smartphones. 90% of respondents use their desktop computers for some type of e-mail, Harris says.

Social media use is similar among both smartphones and PCs. 64% of smartphone owners regularly access online social networks from their phones and 69% use their computers for social media. In both cases, reading posts is the top activity, followed by sharing and writing on social media sites.

Having kids under the roof, the poll finds, ups smartphone usage. Smartphone owners with children in the house are significantly more likely than those without to indicate using smartphones for most of the aforementioned activities, the poll finds. For example, 79% of smartphone owners with children use mapping and navigation features compared to 68% without. 72% of those with children at home download and use free apps, music or videos versus 62% without children. And 72% of those with kids in the house access social media via their smartphones compared to 59% of those without children.

“Understanding what smartphones are used for is an integral part of designing a successful device,” Harris says.  “For example, the prevalence of text messaging calls for a well-designed keyboard interface. Similarly, smartphone users' reliance on their devices for mapping and navigation services calls for either a well-designed mapping interface or the ability to download one.”

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