More than a quarter of all American adults—28%—use mobile or social location-based services of some kind. This includes anyone who takes part in one or more of the following activities:
- 28% of cell owners use phones to get directions or recommendations based on their current location—that works out to 23% of all adults.
- A much smaller number (5% of cell owners, equaling 4% of all adults) use their phones to check in to locations using geosocial services such as Foursquare or Gowalla. Smartphone owners are especially likely to use these services on their phones.
- 9% of internet users set up social media services such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn so that their location is automatically included in their posts on those services. That works out to 7% of all adults.
Taken together, 28% of U.S. adults do at least one of these activities either online or using their mobile phones—and many users do several of them. This is the Pew Internet Project’s most expansive study of location services to date; in previous surveys, we have asked only about the use of geosocial or “check in” services.
Several groups have higher-than-average rates of location service usage, including:
Smartphone owners – One in ten smartphone owners (12%) have used a geosocial (“check in”) service such as Foursquare or Gowalla, and 55% of smartphone owners have used a location-based information service. Almost six in ten smartphone owners (58%) use at least one of these services. These are all well above the average for cell owners as a whole.
Younger users – Smartphone owners ages 18-49 are more likely than those over 50 to use either geosocial or location-based services on their phones. (There are no significant differences among social media users by age in regard to automatic location-tagging.)
Non-whites – Geosocial services and automatic location-tagging are most popular with minorities, continuing a trend of mobile connectivity that has been seen in other Pew Internet surveys. Hispanics are the most active in these two activities, with a quarter (25%) of Latino smartphone owners using geosocial services and almost a third (31%) of Latino social media users enabling automatic location-tagging. However, though only 7% of white smartphone owners use geosocial services, 59% get location-based information on their phones, compared with 53% of blacks and only 44% of Hispanics.
About this survey
The results reported here are based on a national telephone survey of 2,277 adults conducted April 26-May 22, 2011. 1,522 interviews were conducted by landline phone, and 755 interviews were conducted by cell phone. Interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish. For results based on all adults, the margin of error is +/-2 percentage points. For results based on smartphone owners, the margin of error is +/-4.5 percentage points (n=688). For results based on social networking and Twitter users (“social media users”), the margin of error is +/-3.5 percentage points (n=975).