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Student Smartphone Use Doubles; Instant Messaging Loses Favor

Smartphone use among college students has almost doubled since early last year, a study by a researcher at Ball State University found.

The study confirms what has become common knowledge: cellphones are almost ubiquitous on college campuses, with 99.8 percent of students owning one or more. But in the national survey of about 500 students—which has been conducted twice a year since 2005—new details emerged on the kind of phones they own and how they use them.

Of those phone-owning students, 49 percent now have smartphones, compared with 38 percent last October and 27 percent in February 2009.

Text messaging has overtaken not just e-mail but also instant messaging in popularity. Ninety-seven percent of students use text messages as their main form of communication, as opposed to 30 percent for e-mail and 25 percent for instant messaging.

Approximately 90 percent of smartphone owners use their phones to access the Internet. Ninety-seven percent use their phones to take and send photos, while 87 percent of users take and send videos.

Michael Hanley, a Ball State journalism professor who conducted the study, said he sees a correlation between the rise of smartphones and the increase in text messaging.

“It’s really been the last three years that text messaging really, really spiked,” said Mr. Hanley. “With feature phones, you could text, but it wasn’t really easy to do because of the small handsets and small screens.”

Mr. Hanley said he foresees the rise of voice-to-text technology as a rival to traditional text messaging. He is already hearing buzz about it from his students, whom he credits as the first to adopt new technologies.

“They’re really the innovators in these kinds of things,” he said. “They get it real quick.”

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