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Cell Phones: Not Just for Talking Anymore

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Somebody might want to think about giving cell phones another name. That’s because Richard Wike, associate director of the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project says, “People really are using their cell phones for way more than just phone calls now.”

The Global Attitudes Project surveyed 21 countries to find out how people worldwide are using cell phones today.  Most everyone makes phone calls, but a huge number of people use them for other tasks.  “In particular,” Wike tells ABC News, “they’re texting.”  Fully 75 percent of the cell phone users in those countries say they use their smart-phones to send and receive text messages.

Texting is most common among the poorest nations surveyed.  Ninety-six percent of cell phone owners in Indonesia say they send text messages with their phones. That is the same percentage of Indonesians who simply use them to call someone. Eighty-nine percent of people in Kenya say they use their phones for texting.

Half of the people in the global survey say they take pictures with their cell phones. The Japanese are the most likely of all the people surveyed to do that. Seventy-five percent say they use their phones as cameras.

Close to a quarter of those surveyed say they use their phones to surf the web. In some countries, the number is higher.  “In places like Israel, Japan and the United States,” Wike says, “ you’ve got more than four-in-10 cell phone owners who say they do use their cell phone to access the Internet.”

In broadening the survey, Wike also says that social networking is very popular around the world but that, “It tends to be more common in wealthier countries.” He says the reason is that people have more access to the Internet in those more developed nations.   The Pew survey also found that “Germany, France and Japan are the only countries polled where more Internet users say they do not go on social networking sites than say they do.”

Most of the people who are comfortable with and who use digital technology around the globe are under 30 years old and well educated.   “The more educated,” says Wilk, “are more likely to use their cell phone for different purposes and more likely to engage in social networking.”

This digital multi-tasking, Wilk says, is only going to grow.  “As cell phone technology spreads across the globe, as more and more people are able to access the Internet through their cell phones, “ he says, “we’re going to see a variety of uses and this is going to become more and more common globally.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio