The spread of smartphones in the last year has led to a jump in the number of Americans using real-time, location-based data on their handsets. A new study from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project shows that almost three-quarters (74%) of smartphone owners used their devices to get directions and other location-related information as of February -- up from 55% last May.
That increase coincides with a rise in smartphone ownership to 46% this year, from 35% in 2011. That means that the overall proportion of U.S. adults who get location-based information has almost doubled over that time period-- to 41% in February 2012 from 23% last May.
The Pew report also found that smartphone users are more likely to turn to geosocial services like Foursquare to check in to certain places and share their location with friends. Some 18% are doing so as of February -- up from 12% in 2011, equating to 10% of all U.S. adults.
“We’ve watched mobile phones become increasingly entwined in people’s everyday activities, and location-based services are an important part of that,” said Kathryn Zickuhr, the Pew Internet researcher who authored the report, in a statement.
The uptick in usage of geolocation services brings some welcome news to Foursquare as it struggles to establish itself as a moneymaking platform. But other recent data from comScore showed that the service attracted a smartphone audience of 5.5 million in March, representing just 5.7% reach among social networking properties. (Facebook dominates with more than 80%.) Foursquare has also been eclipsed by upstarts like Pinterest, with 7.5 million visitors on smartphones, delivering reach of 7.7%.
Not surprisingly, the Pew study indicated that younger people are more likely than older adults to use both location-based information services and “check-in” services. More than four out of five (82%) of those ages 18-29, for example, used either or both of those services, compared to 66% of people 50 and over.
Another demographic distinction the research pointed out is that while smartphone owners in lower-income households are less likely to use location-based information services, they are more likely to use geosocial tools like Foursquare.
Men and women used these services about equally (74% versus 76%), while segmenting by race showed that whites were more likely to do so (77%) than blacks (67%) and Hispanics (71%). The Pew findings were based on a survey conducted from January 20 to February 19 among a nationally representative sample of 2,253 adults.