Social media

Three quarters of smartphone users use location services, says study

Sep. 12, 2013 at 5:16 PM ET

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http://memeshare.net/

Maybe Foursquare has lost a bit of its allure — who wants to be Mayor of John F. Kennedy International Airport, Terminal 5? — but a new study shows that Americans still love sharing their location to anyone (or anything) who will listen. 

Whether getting directions, looking for the closest Thai restaurant or looking for other information based on their current location, 74 percent of smartphone users in the United States are accessing their mobile device's location-based services, according to a new study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project

Yet even as smartphone users are increasingly sharing their location on social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram, social media sites such as Foursquare, which are centered around sharing location, are seeing a slight dip in popularity.

"Some 12 percent of adult smartphone owners say they use a geosocial service to 'check in' to certain locations or share their location with friends," the Pew report reads. "That is down from 18 percent of smartphone owners who reported doing that type of activity in early 2012."

Whether geolocational social media is really losing luster is not yet clear, Kathryn Zickuhr, a Pew research associate, told NBC News. Given that more people are sharing their location through social sites such as Facebook and Instagram may provide some clues, however. "It's entirely possible people are shifting from using these check-in services to sharing their location with their friends in other ways, such as sharing their location on social network sites to where their friends are."

Along with the badge-earning "gamification" that made checking in on Foursquare fun, geolocation apps increasingly offer discounts and other deals for nearby bars and other businesses. Such incentives still may not be enough to compete with the ease of simply adding your location to a page where you're already posting (most likely Facebook).

Though the Pew study focused on location services and not their accompanying privacy concerns, casual use of smartphone location comes with a caution. Law enforcement authorities collect cellphone location information millions of times a year, often without a warrant. So do companies, which increasingly use anonymous phone info to track shopper's brick-and-mortar buying habits.

Something to think about when you read Pew's findings:

    • 74 percent of adult smartphone owners ages 18 and older say they use their phone to get directions or other information based on their current location.
    • Among adult social media users ages 18 and older, 30 percent say that at least one of their accounts is currently set up to include their location in their posts, up from 14 percent who said they had ever done this in 2011.
    • Younger social media users share their location, too. An earlier Pew Internet survey of teens ages 12 to 17 found that 16 percent of teen social media users have their accounts set up to automatically include their location in posts.
    • A plurality of geosocial service users (39 percent) say they check into places on Facebook; 18 percent say they use Foursquare and 14 percent say they use Google Plus, among other services.


Helen A.S. Popkin goes blah blah blah abut the Internet. Tell her to get a real job on Twitter and/or Facebook

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