Mobile Surveys at Different Colleges Produce Mixed Signals

Separate surveys conducted recently on two college campuses returned mixed signals on the sorts of capabilities students desire from their mobile devices.

One survey, conducted by Michael Hanley, an assistant professor of journalism at Ball State University, found that 27 percent of respondents on his campus reported owning a smartphone—a mobile device with advanced capabilities, like an iPhone or BlackBerry—as opposed to what nationwide surveys have determined to be the national rate for working adults (19 percent). That study used a voluntary-response sample of 314 Ball State students.

Another survey, orchestrated by Chuck Martin of the University of New Hampshire’s school of business and economics, polled 707 students across the university’s six colleges about how they use their mobile devices and what new features they think would prove most useful.

The results were startling, Mr. Martin said. The respondents’ most common uses of their cellphone were talking (91 percent), text-messaging (87 percent), and as an alarm clock (80 percent). Not surprising, perhaps, since the majority of students still have regular cellphones that lack the bells and whistles of a smartphone.

But when asked to prioritize the features they want to see in future mobile devices, the respondents continued to name relatively basic functions. By a huge margin, the students desired longer battery life (86 percent) and waterproof devices (81 percent). The next most popular innovations were a touch screen, calculator, flashlight, camera, and picture messaging—most of which are already included on many non-“smart” cellphones.

Features that smartphones boast above all—Internet, instant messaging, e-mail, video messaging, and GPS—rounded out the bottom of the desired features, none garnering the favor of more than 10 percent of respondents.

“The phone company’s over there creating new whiz-bang features,” Mr. Martin said, “and the students are saying hey, give us practical stuff.” –Steve Kolowich

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