Only 55% of US Smartphone Owners Have Used Their Phone’s GPS System

gps-google-iphoneThis week Pew Research released its Internet and American Life Project. Based on their research, virtually all smartphones now include a built-in GPS system receiver to enable location tracking, but only 55% of U.S. smartphone owners have used their phone’s GPS system to help get local directions or recommendations.

Pew did not speculate about the other 45%, but I found this to be a very interesting statistic. One of the problems with a smartphone GPS system is that it can be unreliable when you are unable to get a cell phone signal. So those who can afford a smartphone may also be willing and able to spend the cash on a better and more reliable GPS navigation system. Perhaps, the remaining 45% of people who can afford a smartphone either have a handheld GPS device, such as a Garmin Nuvi, or their vehicle has a factory-installed GPS navigation system.

Fully 83% of all American adults ages 18 and older own a cell phone, a number that has remained relatively steady since mid-2008. Of these cell phone owners, 42% own a smartphone, which translates to 35% of all adults. Almost six in ten (58%) of these smartphone owners use a geosocial or a location-based information service of some kind.

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.

Cellphones may be capable of pinpointing your location using a GPS system or cell tower triangulation, but a new study says few American adults are interested in sharing their current location on services such as Foursquare and Gowalla. According to Pew, only 12% of smartphone owners have used such services. Such slow market gains may be why Facebook recently discontinued Facebook Places, a check-in service launched just last year. Facebook users can now opt to tag status updates with their location, a feature Twitter also offers.



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