CELL PHONE POLL
M. Spencer Green  /  AP
Brandon Fogel on a cell phone at a Chicago cafe, in this July 2003 file photo.  A new poll found that three-fourths of callers say they've used their phones in an emergency.
updated 4/3/2006 7:57:23 AM ET 2006-04-03T11:57:23

Even cell phone users get irritated at others who yak on their portables about their personal business in public.  An AP-AOL-Pew poll found the offended don't think they are among the callers who get on other people's nerves.

Most cell users find their phones very useful, with half keeping them on all the time.

But almost nine in 10 say they encounter others using those phones in an annoying way.  Only 8 percent of cell users acknowledge their own use of cell phones is sometimes rude.

"People tend to talk louder on the phone.  That's quite irritating," said Pamela Sorenson, a 57-year-old resident of Bellingham, Wash.  "I often hear young people, mostly college age, talking about dating and personal things I don't want to know about."

More than two-thirds of cell phone users say it would be hard to give up their portable, according to the poll, one of the most extensive news surveys of cell phone users yet.

About a fourth of the cell phone users polled, 26 percent, said they can't imagine life without their cell phone.  Three-fourths of cell users say they have used it in an emergency.

"My cell phone is pretty much a necessity — sometimes a pain but a necessity," said Sandra Moore of Colorado Springs, Colo.  "I have children and the cell phone gives me the freedom to be places I need to be.  It's easier to communicate with people, you can reach them almost any time.

"But that means people can reach me anytime," she grumbled.  "Sometimes, I just turn the ringer off."

Almost one-fourth of those polled say too many people try to get in touch with them on their cell phones — just one of many headaches balanced against the devices' advantages.

The poll also found:

  • More than a fourth, 28 percent, said they sometimes don't drive as safely as they should because they are using a cell phone.
  • More than a third, 36 percent, said they are sometimes shocked at the size of their service bill.

Other uses
The bulk of cell users use it traditionally — as a portable phone.  But cell phones increasingly include built-in cameras, MP3 players, games and computers with the Internet and e-mail.

Young adults and minorities are drawn to the multiple uses of a cell phone.  They are more likely than older adults and whites to send text messages, take pictures, use the Internet and play music with their cell phones.

If those trends continue, the cell phones' role will change dramatically.

"We've got everything on my phone," said Mark Madsen, a 24-year-old college student from Chattanooga, Tenn.  "I use it mostly for the phone, but I also play video games and use the MP3 player. I pretty much use it all the time."

Only one-third of U.S. cell phone owners use text messages — a practice immensely popular in Europe and Asia.  Two-thirds of cell phone owners between ages 18 and 29 send text messages — one of many areas where young adults have a more versatile approach to the devices.

More than half, 55 percent, of young adults take still pictures with their phones; 47 percent play games and 28 percent use the Internet, according to the poll of more than 1,200 cell phone users.

"We think of them as mobile phones, but the personal computer, mobile phone and the Internet are merging into some new medium like the personal computer in the 1980s or the Internet in the 1990s," said Howard Rheingold, an author who has taught at Stanford University and written extensively about the effects of technology.

Cell phones have changed the way people organize their time.  Nearly half freed said they make most of their cell calls in off-hours when the minutes are free.  Almost as many say they make cell phone calls to occupy time when traveling or waiting for someone.

"When I'm driving to my appointments, everybody calls me on my cell phone, said 26-year-old Abel Yanez of San Jose, Calif, who works in a landscaping business.  "When I'm in my office, I use my cell phone because if I need to leave, I just leave.  I have the office phone so I can dial up on the Internet."

The AP-AOL-Pew poll of 1,503 adults included 1,286 cell phone users and was conducted March 8-26.  It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.  About half of the interviews, 752, were conducted by dialing landlines and 751 were conducted by dialing cell phones.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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