July 7, 2010, 1:31 PM

11% of mobile phone owners make purchases through their phones

And among young adults 20% have made a mobile purchase, says a report released today.

Lead Photo

The mobile phone is becoming an all-purpose device, and increasingly one of its purposes is for shopping.

Already, 11% of U.S. adults who own mobile phones say they have made a purchase on a phone, says a report released today by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. And the figures are much higher for certain demographic groups. Among consumers age 18-29, 20% have made a mobile purchase, as have 18% of English-speaking Hispanics and 13% of blacks, compared with 10% of non-Hispanic whites, the report says. (The survey was conducted in English, and reports no data on non-English-speaking Hispanics.)

The report documents that while cell phone ownership is holding steady at about 82%, consumers are using their phones more in new ways. For instance, 76% said in the current survey they use their phones to take a picture versus 66% in Pew’s April 2009 survey; 72% send or receive text messages, compared with 65%; 34% send or receive e-mail, versus 25%; and 38% access the Internet on their phones, versus 25%.

Pew also asked for the first time in the recent survey, conducted in April and May 2010, about several other activities, including making purchases from a mobile device. Other responses to first-time questions show 23% of mobile phone owners have accessed a social network via a mobile phone, 20% have used a phone to watch a video and 11% have made a charitable donation by text message.

The survey found 59% of U.S. consumers go online wirelessly using a cell phone or laptop. Among that group 20% only use mobile phones to access the web, 33% only use laptops, and 47% go online both via mobile phone and laptop.

Certain activities have become ubiquitous among mobile phone owners ages 18-29, as 95% text message with their phones and 93% use phones to take pictures. “Since nine in 10 young adults own a cell phone, that means that 85% of all 18-29-year-olds text, and 83% take photos using a cell phone,” writes Pew research specialist Aaron Smith, author of the report, “Mobile Access 2010.”

On the older end of the age spectrum, the results are quite different. While 82% of those 50-64 own a cell phone, only 4% have used their phones to make a purchase. Among those 65 and older, only 57% own a mobile phone, and 5% of that group has used a phone to purchase. “Eight in 10 seniors (those ages 65 and older) are either Internet users who do not go online wirelessly (24%) or not online at all (56%),” the report says.

The report is based on a telephone survey of 2,252 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, of whom 744 were reached on their mobile phones. Princeton Survey Research Associates International conducted the survey between April 29 and May 30, 2010.

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