More Americans are upgrading to smartphones, but that doesn't mean they're leaving service problems behind. Smartphone owners are more likely to report things like dropped calls, spam and slow download speeds than feature phone users, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.
For example, 49% of smartphone users say they encounter slow Internet speed at least once a week, compared to only 31% of people with regular phones. And 35% on the smartphone side experience dropped calls weekly versus 28% for other cell owners.
While the results seem counterintuitive -- a higher-quality phone should equate to a better experience -- it's likely that a smartphone also carries higher levels of expectation for service.
Smartphone owners are typically heavier users of mobile data services than feature phone users, which may increase the chances of their running into problems. Regardless of phone type, the vast majority of U.S. mobile users experience frustration with cell service at some level. The Pew report found that 72% lose calls at least occasionally and 68% get unwanted sales or marketing calls at one time or another.
Furthermore, 69% receive unwanted spam or text messages, while 77% of mobile Web users encounter slow download speeds on occasion and 46% weekly. A Nielsen survey in June found that only 7.6% of U.S. mobile users so far have h4G service, promising speeds up to 10 times faster than 3G.
The Pew study also called the level of telemarketing and spam “noteworthy” because of legal restrictions applying to these activities. In the case of unsolicited text, for example, commercial parties can't send spam to cell owners who placed their mobile device on the National Do Not Call registry. Even if not on that registry, regulations bar text messages sent from Internet domain names.
The Pew study, based on a survey of 2,254 adults conducted between March and April, also showed that non-whites were somewhat more likely to experience phone problems than whites. For instance, 53% of Hispanic mobile Web users face slow download times at least weekly or more often, compared with 44% of their white counterparts. 41% of black and 39% of Hispanic cell owners reported dropping calls at least weekly, versus 30% of white cell users.