May 11, 2012

Three-quarters of smartphone owners use location-based services

Geosocial services

Almost one in five adult smartphone owners use geosocial services

Some 18% of smartphone owners use geosocial or “check-in” services like Foursquare, up from 12% in May 2011. This works out to 10% of all adults (up from 4% in May 2011).

One in ten adults use geosocial services

While there are still some differences in geosocial use among smartphone owners of different demographic groups, the differences are not as strong as they were in May 2011. Among smartphone owners, the most striking differences in usage are still by age group: Some 23% of young adults ages 18-29 use geosocial services (up from 18% in 2011), compared with 14% of smartphone owners 50 and older (up from 2% in 2011).

Unlike as with location-based information services, smartphone owners with lower household incomes are somewhat more likely to use these services than those in higher-income households. There are no significant differences among smartphone owners by race or ethnicity.

Demographics of smartphone owners who use geosocial services

Recent changes in the geosocial landscape

Since our previous survey, Facebook ended its mobile location-sharing service “Facebook Places” and shifted its focus to using a general location “layer” that runs throughout its other services. In this set-up, location is yet another piece of information that can be “tagged” on to another piece of content, like a name or date, as opposed to a stand-alone service.1 (In May 2011, we found that 14% of social media users used automatic location-tagging on their posts.2) Facebook acquired the mobile geosocial service Gowalla in December 2011, and the service ended in early 2012.3

Around 1 in 20 teens use geosocial services

Background: Smartphone ownership among teens

As of July 2011, some 23% of all those ages 12-17 say they have a smartphone.4 Our recent report, “Teens, Smartphones & Texting,” found that ownership is highest among older teens: 31% of those ages 14-17 have a smartphone, compared with just 8% of those ages 12-13. Teens whose parents have a college education are also slightly more likely to have a smartphone (26%) than teens whose parents have a high school diploma or less (19%).

In addition, another 54% of teens have a regular cell phone (or are not sure what kind of phone they have), and 23% do not have a cell phone at all.

Teens and geosocial services

Among smartphone owners, teens’ use of geosocial services as of July 2011 is similar to that of adults in February 2012: 18% of teen smartphone owners ages 12-17 use geosocial services, compared with 18% of adult smartphone owners age 18 and older.5 Overall, 6% of all American teens use geosocial services on their cell phones, as shown in the following table.

Use of geosocial services by teens and adults

In general, older teens ages 14 to 17 are more likely to use geosocial services than 12 and 13-year-olds. (In our sample the largest group of teens who broadcast their location was 17-year-olds.) There are no statistically significant differences in use of geosocial services by gender, race, household income, or parents’ education level. For more information about teens and geosocial services (presented in terms of all teens, as opposed to only teen smartphone owners), see our recent report, “Teens, Smartphones & Texting.”

Teen use of geosocial services

  1. numoffset=”5″ Stephen Lawson, “Facebook to help third parties use location-related data.” Computerworld, April 3, 2012. http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9225821/Facebook_to_help_third_parties_use_location_related_data?taxonomyId=15
  2. Kathryn Zickuhr and Aaron Smith, “28% of American adults use mobile and social location-based services.” Pew Internet, September 6, 2011. http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Location/Report/Social-media.aspx
  3. Leslie Horn, “Gowalla Shuts Down Following Facebook Acquisition.” PCMag.com, March 12, 2012. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2401433,00.asp
  4. numoffset=”8″ Amanda Lenhart, “Teens, Smartphones & Texting.” Pew Internet, March 19, 2012. http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Teens-and-smartphones/Cell-phone-owne rship/Smartphones.aspx
  5. As with our adult surveys, the question focused on cell phone-based use of location-based services, and was asked of cell phone owners. “Teens, Smartphones & Texting” (2012). http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Teens-and-smartphones/What-teens-do-with-phones/Location-based-services.aspx