May 6, 2007

A Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users

Mobile Centric

“Mobile Centric” users are the second wave of young technology adopters. Mobile communication is important, and the cell phone is a multifaceted tool.

With a median age of 32, this is the second youngest group overall. The cell phone is the device to which members of this group are most attached. Mobile Centric group members have cell phones that are chock full of features, from text messaging to gaming, and they use these functions at high rates. The internet penetration rate of this group is high, and group members’ access to broadband at home is somewhat below average. Likewise, their online activities are below average in both scope and frequency.

Although they are generally content about the role of technology in their lives, the Mobile Centrics are also less enthusiastic than the preceding groups. They like the communicative functions of ICTs, but are not as likely to consider them helpful to doing their jobs or pursuing hobbies.

Assets

These second wave young adopters have fewer of the assets the more tech-oriented groups have. Some 33% have laptops (just above average and less than half the rate of Omnivores), and 34% have iPods or MP3 players (also half the rate of Omnivores). Although the vast majority of the Mobile Centrics (91%) are internet users, 77% have a desktop computer, which is a larger gap than the norm (which is 73% to 68%, a 5 percentage-point gap).

Mobile Centrics rely on their cell phones. They text often, and use the cell phone as a gateway to entertainment.

What this group does have is cell phones (100% in our sample), and they have a lot of functionality on their phones. The Mobile Centrics trail only Omnivores on measures of cell phone capacity; fully 88% have a cell phone that can play a game, and 72% have a cell phone that can surf the internet. More than half (60%) have a cell phone that can take pictures, which is above the average of 28% among cell phone users. Four in ten (40%) have a cell phone that can play music.

Activities

Mobile Centrics are a bit below average in their pursuit of most of the leading-edge online activities included in the survey. A third (35%) has tried at least one of the six activities relating to user-generated content, ten percentage points behind the average. And 53% go online on the average day compared with the 66% average.

Where they do stand out is in texting and gaming. Fully 94% of the Mobile Centrics have sent or received text-messages on their cell phone. Nearly half (54%) rely on their cell phones for most of their calls (compared with the 39% average) and 13% have taken digital photos with their cell phones. They are also active game players: 61% play electronic games and 41% play video games several times per month. Most of that is done on Xbox or PlayStation, but some (18%) play games over the internet.

Attitudes

More than half (57%) of Mobile Centrics believes that technology gives them more control over their lives—a notable difference from several other technologically-engaged groups, among whom about 75% think this is the case. They also feel they are less technologically competent; 21% say they need help getting new technology to work. That is below the average for the entire sample, but far higher than the figures for Connectors and Omnivores. They like how technology connects them to others (74% say ICTs help them “a lot” keep up with family and friends) and like that IT makes them more available to others (73% say this). But they are less likely than Omnivores to say that gadgets help them share their ideas with others (31% versus 67%) or pursue their hobbies (30% versus 67%).

Finally, Mobile Centrics say the cell phone is a critical tool for them. Fully 54% say they make most of their phone calls with their cell phone, the second highest number recorded among all groups. More than half (55%) say it would be very hard for them to do without their phones. Mobile Centrics are more than twice as likely to say this about their cell phones as about the internet or email. Just a quarter (25%) say it would be very hard for them to do without the internet and 21% say this about email.

Mobile Centrics and cell phone

Demographics

This relatively young (the median age is 32) group as a slight majority of men (52%) and sizable percentages of African Americans (21%) and English-speaking Hispanics (14%). Mobile Centrics are in the middle income range and the strong majority (81%) is employed either full time or part time. Members of this group are also relatively inexperienced with the internet, having been online for an average of six years. This group makes up 10% of the general population.