Pew: Mobile Web Deepens Americans' Digital Lifestyles

blackberry Are you a "digital collaborator," "ambivalent networker," or "drifting surfer?" Those are among the types of Internet users defined in a new Pew Research Center study that finds the mobile Web is playing a growing role in peoples' digital lives.

Nearly 40% of Americans have positive and improving attitudes about their mobile devices, which in turn draws them deeper into online activities that range from sharing and creating content to increasing personal productivity.

"For a sizable minority of Americans, mobile connectivity expands their digital horizons as they do more with their suite of wireline and wireless tools," said John B. Horrigan, associate director of the Pew Internet Project and author of the typology report, in a statement. "Mobile services complement existing broadband assets, and these Americans find it increasingly hard to be without their connectivity traveling with them as they go."

At the same time, the majority of Americans (61%) continue to rely on desktop computers for Web access (or have no access at all) and use mobile phones mainly for making calls. The study broadly describes these users as favoring stationary media, in contrast to the significant "Motivated by Media" minority.

Pew breaks down these two main groups into 10 subcategories, with five in each group. On the mobile side are:

• Digital Collaborators: (8% of the population) Very much about continual information exchange with others, as they frequently interact with others to create and share content or express themselves.

• Ambivalent Networkers: (7%) Extremely active in using social networking sites and accessing digital resources "on the go," yet aren't always thrilled to be contacted by others.

• Media Movers: (7%) Active distributors of user-generated content such as photos and videos.

• Roving Nodes: (9%) Active managers of their social lives via basic applications--texting and emailing--to connect with others, pass along information, and improve personal productivity.

• Mobile Newbies: (8%) Many in this group are recent cell phone adopters and very enthusiastic about how mobile service makes them more accessible.

Stationary media users include:

• Desktop Veterans: (13%) Tech-oriented, but in a "year 2004" kind of way. They consume online information and connect with others through traditional means such as email on a high-speed home connection.

• Drifting Surfers: (14%) Have the tools for connectivity, but are relatively infrequent users.

• Information Encumbered: (10%) Spend an average amount of time online, but complain about information overload and need help getting gadgets to work.

• Tech Indifferent: (10%) Have limited online access at home, and while most have cell phones, they bristle at their intrusiveness.

• Off the Network: (14%) Lack the tools for connecting digitally, with neither online access or cell phones.

Two-thirds of those in the mobile group said it would be "very hard" to give up their handheld devices -- up 20% compared to the last time the Internet typology study was done by Pew in April 2006. Only 21% of the stationary media group agreed, representing a 64% decrease in that sentiment.

Horrigan said the diminishing attachment to cell phones suggests the majority of Americans have hit a plateau in their technology use. "We've been able to track some of these people over time, and we see 40% really evolving toward taking advantage of mobile applications, and we don't see that in the other 60%," he said.

Not surprisingly, mobile-centric users tend to skew younger and more affluent than their stationary media counterparts. "Ambivalent networkers," for instance, are described as mostly ethnically diverse males in their late 20s, while "drifting surfers" are mainly women in their early 40s with average income and education levels.

The findings were based on two surveys covering 3,553 U.S. adults that were completed in December 2007. One survey was obtained through telephone interviews -- both landline and cell phone -- with a nationally representative sample of 2,054 adults living in the continental United States. The other was a callback survey of 1,499 adults re-interviewed from Pew's February to March 2006 typology survey.

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