Captain James T. Kirk had the technology of the future at his disposal while in charge of the USS Enterprise. From starships to phasers, the television show, Star Trek, introduced its audience to the revolutionary ideas of futuristic technology. As an interstellar adventurer, one of Captain Kirk’s most valuable tools on his belt was his communicator. The classic phrase “Beam me up Scotty” would have never been spoken without the uses of a device connecting the captain to his starship thousands of miles in space. Today, two-thirds of Americans have smartphones sitting in their pockets, and while we may not use them to talk with starships; they act as modern day communicators and connect us to the furthest reaches of the internet.

Smartphones alone are not the only access to online services. Traditional broadband and other services allow a majority of the population the ability to go online. However, of the 64% of Americans with smartphones, a small population relies exclusively on their cell phone to go online. Pew Research Center published a report titled “U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015” in which they outline that 7% of Americans rely completely on their smartphones to access online services.

This “smartphone-dependent” population is made up of people who are less likely to own a desktop, less likely to have a bank account, less likely to own health insurance, and more likely to rent their homes. The report explains that smartphone-dependent American are more likely to use their cell phones to reach out for job opportunities and engage with job postings.

The report also explains the multiple different functions that people use smartphones for in the world today. The basic functions of calling, texting, and casual internet browsing are not the only services Americans are using their smartphones to operate. Pew’s report found that a number of different functions are becoming popular for smartphone users.

  • 62% of smartphone owners have used their phone in the past year to look up information about a health condition.
  • 57% have used their phone to do online banking.
  • 44% have used their phone to look up real estate listings or other information about a place to live.
  • 43% to look up information about a job.
  • 40% to look up government services or information.
  • 30% to take a class or get educational content.
  • 18% to submit a job application.

We may not be able to pull out our smartphones and ask to be teleported into space yet, but the functions available for smartphone are expanding every day. Just four years ago the percentage of Americans that owned smartphones was 35%. Today that number has increased to 64% and with new developments in online services happening all the time, dependence on smartphones will become more prevalent than ever.


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