Smartphone owners use their devices in ways that are both similar to and different from the way they use their personal computers, according to an online survey recently conducted by The Harris Poll of 2,383 adults, 991 of whom own and use a smartphone.

At 87%, immediate communication of text or instant messages was the most common use of smartphones, whereas it was the least common use for a computer at 20%. In contrast, sending and reading emails, cited by 90% of respondents, was the top use for computers and also ranked high among smartphone uses at 72%.

When reading and writing emails were broken into two separate categories, reading emails was more common among smartphone users than writing emails. While 67% and 38% of respondents, respectively, used smartphones to read personal and work emails, the corresponding numbers for writing personal or work emails on a smartphone for were 56% and 32%.

Computers were the preferred device when it comes to researching goods and services, the third most reported activity at 81% vs. eighth ranked smartphone use at 45%. Similarly, respondents ranked computers higher when it comes to purchasing products or services, such as holiday gifts or clothing—ranking fourth highest at 78% among computer users and twelfth at 23% for smartphone users.

Mapping and navigation is much more common on smartphones (second ranked at 73%) as compared to computers, seventh ranked at 56%, Harris Interactive researchers found.

Social media was a common use for both smartphones (43%) and computers (50%), ranking 5th for both. Reading posts was the most common social media activity among both user groups—56% for smartphones and 62% among computer users. Sharing (43% smartphone, 51% computer) and writing posts (43% smartphone, 50% computer) followed. Forty-three percent of smartphone owners used their devices to check-in on social media, while only 28% of computer users did so.

Smartphone owners with children in the household were significantly more likely than those without them to say they used their devices for most of the activities studied, Harris reported in a press release. This included using mapping/navigation, with 79% of households with children indicating they used their smartphones for that purpose vs. 68% percent for those without.

Downloading free applications, music or videos at 72% and 62%, respectively, combined social media use at 72% and 59%, playing games at 62% and 52% and researching goods or services at 54% and 39%, respectively, were among the other activities tested.

Understanding smartphone usage is “an integral part of designing a successful device,” Harris notes. “For example, the prevalence of text messaging calls for a well designed keyboard interface. Similarly, smartphone users’ reliance on their devices for mapping and navigation services calls for either a well designed mapping interface or the ability to download one.

“Furthermore, the prevalence of data-munching activities like texting, navigation, downloads, and emailing speak directly to smartphone owners’ data plan needs, and as reliance on these devices continues to grow both data plans and entire data networks may be affected in any number of ways.”

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