Cellphones Even Used to Make Occasional Phone Calls

Public cellphone use is for passing the time, or catching up on social media, or just because it is handy.

People use their cell- and smartphones in a host of ways in public, according to a new report from Pew Research Center. When in public, phone owners say they most frequently use their devices for basic social or information-oriented tasks. Many also use phones to pass the time, catch up on other tasks or get information about the people they are planning to see.

Despite what some people imagine, most rare was using one’s phone specifically to avoid interacting with people nearby. Most cellphone users say that they rarely or never use their phone to avoid interacting with others; about one in four (23%) do this at least occasionally.

As a rule, smartphone users are more likely to do these things frequently than other cellphone owners; younger adults are more likely to do these things frequently than older adults.

Most cellphone owners (65%) say that when they are in public places, they use their cellphone at least occasionally to look up information about where they are going or how to get there. Some 33% of all cellphone owners do this frequently, making it one of the most common activities queried. Among smartphone owners, 82% look up this type of information at least occasionally when in public.

Most cellphone owners (70%) also say they at least occasionally use their phones while in public spaces to coordinate getting together with others, with 29% doing so frequently. Two-thirds (67%) of cellphone owners say that when they are out in public spaces, they use their phone to catch up with family and friends at least occasionally, with 29% doing so frequently. Women are more likely than men to say they frequently use their phone to use a phone for this reason.

Sometimes using a cellphone in public is just something to do: about half of cellphone owners say there’s no particular reason for using a phone in public. This is overwhelmingly the reason for younger cell phone owners— ages 18 to 29—who do so (76%), compared with those ages 30 to 49 (63%) or people ages 50 to 64 (34%). People over the age of 65 are far less likely to turn to a phone just because it’s there (16%).