Pew: Mobile Web Use Growing Fastest Among African Americans, Hispanics
The latest report from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project finds that African-Americans are the most active mobile Internet users, with nearly half (48%) having at one time accessed the Web on a handheld device. And almost one-third (29%) typically use their cell phones to go online each day.
Both figures are 50% higher than average, indicating that blacks are more likely than whites to go online via mobile rather than home computer.
"Overall, it seems clear that white Americans and African-Americans have somewhat different outlooks on the meaning of online access. For white Americans, online access is likely to occur on a broadband connection at home with a laptop or desktop computer," states the Pew report on wireless Internet use released Wednesday.
The survey found that overall, 56% of Americans now go online wirelessly via laptop, mobile device, game console or MP3 player. Access via mobile has grown especially quickly, with 32% now doing so on a handset compared to 24% in December 2007, when the previous corresponding study was conducted. Nearly one-fifth (19%) go on the mobile Web daily, up from 11% from 19 months ago.
More people are also turning to their handheld for things other than calling, from text messaging to taking photos to playing games and listening to music. In 2009, 44% do at least one non-voice activity regularly on their phones, compared to 32% in 2007.
Nearly half (46%) say mobile access is important for getting information on the go, and one in six say they value it for sharing online content while away from home or work. "Six or seven years ago, mobile was for back-stop voice communications or emergencies -- now it's about seeking information, and for 17%, also about sharing information," said John Horrigan, associate director of the Pew Internet Project and principal author of the report.
But the study's findings of African-American use were the most intriguing. Horrigan pointed out that home broadband adoption for blacks has remained relatively flat over the last two years at 46%, even as mobile Web use on an average day has grown nearly threefold. "That's a bit of a puzzle," said Horrigan.
He said the disparity is likely the result of "budget constraints" that make mobile Internet access a more economical option than having to make an upfront payment of several hundred dollars for a PC along with a $40-a-month broadband connection. In that sense, the mobile phone to some degree substitutes for home Internet access.
So, 65% of whites and 68% of Hispanics have home broadband connections, compared to 46% of blacks. But only 28% of whites have ever used the mobile Web, compared to nearly half of blacks and Hispanics.
Among whites who have gone online with a handheld device, 88% have broadband at home. That figure drops to 64% for blacks. "For the majority of African-Americans, the mobile device is a supplemental access mode, but for a substantial number it is taking the place of the broadband connection at home," said Horrigan.