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Many Young Americans Only Use a Cell Phone

While mobile phones are widely used across most segments of the U.S. adult population, this is especially true for those under 30 years old. Remarkably, over half of U.S. adults who only use a cell phone are under 30. And, furthermore, one-third of 18 to 29 year olds only use a cell phone or the Internet for making phone calls.

These are some of the results of a special analysis of three Harris Poll surveys conducted online between October and December 2006 by Harris Interactive. In total 6,748 U.S. adults were surveyed.

I believe that these latest findings are further evidence that most U.S. mobile phone service providers are missing a huge revenue opportunity -- by not engaging more young Americans to use their cell phone to access value added services (VAS). Furthermore, the implied lost opportunity for American advertisers to connect with this important segment of the market is perhaps the greater disappointment.

Specifically, The Harris Poll study uncovered the following:

- Over eight in ten (81 percent) U.S. adults say that they have a landline phone and over three-quarters (77 percent) say that that they have a wireless or cell phone.

- About one is six (16 percent) of U.S. adults use the Internet, sometimes referred to as VoIP of Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol, to make telephone calls.

- About 98 percent of all adults have some form of telephone service with the remaining two percent saying that they do not have phone service at all.

- Just under one in five (18 percent) of all U.S. adults only use a landline phone; Eleven percent (11 percent) are only using their cell phone and two percent (2 percent) are only using the Internet (VoIP); and Five percent (5 percent) are only using either a cell phone or VoIP.

When we study the profile of "cell phone only" users, an interesting profile emerges.

They are much younger than the general U.S. adult population. Over half of people (55 percent) who say they only use a cell phone are ages 18 to 29 -- as compared to 22 percent of the U.S. adult population who are 18 to 29. Furthermore, this translates into a third (32 percent) of 18 to 29 year olds who say they only use a cell phone (26 percent), only VoIP (3 percent) or VoIP and a cell phone (4 percent).

Harris says that there are two implications to this research. First, new technologies are often first adopted by younger segments. However, the rapid adoption rates we are seeing here will likely reshape the entire communications landscape within the next decade.

Second, the fact that so many 18 to 29 years are "only using cell phones and the Internet" has important implications for companies and other organizations that are trying to communicate with this important segment of the population.

This also hold true with those who conduct survey research who have previously relied on traditional methods (i.e., telephone landlines) for reaching this group. Harris also says that the survey research and marketing industries need to recognize that the Internet and cell phones -- not landlines -- are the primary communication channel for contacting this age group.

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