Telematics

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Telematics and Informatics 20 (2003) 349–364 www.elsevier.com/locate/tele

An analysis of young peopleÕs use of and attitudes toward cell phones Kumiko Aoki *, Edward J. Downes
College of Communication, Boston University, 640 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA Received 8 July 2002; received in revised form 24 January 2003; accepted 26 February 2003

Abstract Cell phones are a pervasive new communication technology, especially among college students. This paper examines college studentsÕ cell phone usage from a behavioral and psychological perspective. Utilizing both qualitative (focus groups) and quantitative (survey) approaches, the study suggests these individuals use the devices for a variety of purposes: to help them feel safe, for financial benefits, to manage time efficiently, to keep in touch with friends and family members, et al. The degree to which the individuals are dependent on the cell phones and what they view as the negatives of their utilization are also examined. The findings suggest people have various feelings and attitudes toward cell phone usage. This study serves as a foundation on which future studies will be built. Ó 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction In recent years, wireless devices such as cell phones, pagers, and pocket PCs have gained popularity among a wide variety of users. For example, cell phone subscribers in the US have increased from 109 million in 2000 to 148.6 million in 2002 according to the research by eMarketer (LetsTalk cell phone survey, 2002); currently 62% of US adults own cell phones according to a study by Scarborough Research (Schackner, 2002). The usage of cell phones is also spreading among the younger generation. According to the Forrester Research and Yankee Group, in 1999 34% of 16–22-year-olds (Grimm, 2001) and about 28% of 10–19-year-olds owned a cell phone (Curry, 2001). ‘‘(T)he diffusion of the mobile phone was among the fastest of

*

Corresponding author. Tel.: +1-617-358-1305; fax: +1-617-358-1301. E-mail address: kaoki@bu.edu (K. Aoki).

0736-5853/03/$ - see front matter Ó 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/S0736-5853(03)00018-2

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K. Aoki, E.J. Downes / Telematics and Informatics 20 (2003) 349–364

any technology in history . . . By 1999 there were nearly 500 million mobile telephones in use throughout the world’’ (Townsend, 2002). People use these devices in a variety of contexts. While they originated as business tools, cell phones have evolved from their original purpose and are now used largely as personal communication devices. According to the ‘‘Cell Device Usage’’ survey conducted by the Consumer Electronics Association in October 2001, 57% of cell phone users reported using phones primarily for social purposes (Wireless Phone Reliance, 2001). As cell phone usage grows, so does the reliance on the technology. The same study found half of cell phone owners carry their phones with them all the times. Some argue the cell phone will subsume all other forms of communication–– email, phone calls, and the web which will be accessible to the population by the ‘‘universal handheld’’ (Townsend, 2002). The newest generation of cell phones, third generation (3G) wireless systems, is not just for talking. Rather, this next generation increasingly provides multimedia messaging and direct Internet access in addition to traditional voice communication services. With the cell phone, users have access to phone mail, voice mail, stock prices, sports scores, restaurant reviews, movie guides, and so on. The impact cell phones have on the society is great for they create another business arena––mobile commerce or m-commerce. We have two objectives in this research. The first is to profile cell phone users among college students in the US in terms of their intrinsic motivations toward adopting the technology. Understanding the usersÕ intrinsic motivations helps us decipher the reason why the...
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