Most Americans Use Their Cell Phones As Camera
November 26, 2012

Most Americans Use Their Cell Phones As Camera

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

In the mid to late 80s, the days of “Wall Street” and a blossoming telecommunications industry, it´s likely few ever imagined taking a picture with one of those giant bag phones and rectangular, brick-like behemoths.

In the days since, our cell phones spent some time slimming down considerably, added a touch of color to their screens, learned how to ring in polyphonic tones and even communicate through text. Cameras were later added, a feature which may have been added as an afterthought but has now become something we wouldn´t imagine living without.

Today, the Pew Internet and American Life Project has released another survey which explains how American adults use their cell phones. As one might expect, these devices are widely being used to do much more than place a call: According to the survey, 82% of all American adult cell phone owners use these devices to take pictures.

Pew's charts show that the desire to take pictures with a cell phone started out strong: In between 2009 and 2010, a Pew survey found that 76% of these owners used their phones to take pictures. This percentage dipped a bit going into 2011, but has since risen to 82%.

The early days of cell phone cameras were bleak and blurry. These devices couldn´t capture a very good image, simply one that could work in a pinch. Even the camera in the very first iPhone, a phone which has in many ways revolutionized how we use phones today, was largely incapable of taking a decent shot. The dip in-between 2009 and 2011 is interesting, as cell phone cameras had already improved greatly. The iPhone 4, released in 2010, quickly became the most used camera on photo hosting site, Flickr.

There´s much more to do on a cell phone than snap a picture, of course. As expected, the number of American adults who use their phones to text continues to grow. In 2007, 58% of these adults used their phones to send text messages back and forth to each other. According to today´s report, this number has steadily increased to 80%.

According to another recent study, the number of texts sent per month finally saw a decline this last quarter, the first time a decline has even been recorded in text messages sent.

Independent mobile analyst Chetan Sharma issued the report, saying services such as iMessage and Facebook Messenger are cutting into the text messages sent per month, though they are also helping drive the sales of smartphones.

Elsewhere in the Pew survey, the number of adults who access the Internet on their cell phones has more than doubled in 4 years. In between 2008 and 2009, only 25% of adults were logging on to the web on their cell phones. Today, some 56% access the Internet on their cell phones, a trend which is largely driven by younger males. By the numbers, 57% of men access the Internet on their phones. 77% of adults ages 18 through 29 browse the Internet on their handset, the majority of which have some college experience or a college degree.

“Cell users now treat their gadget as a body appendage,” writes Pew project director Lee Rainie in an email to

“There is striking growth in the number of people who are taking advantage of the growing number of functions that these phones can perform and there isn´t much evidence yet that the pace of change is slowing down,” he said.