August 15, 2008

A generation widely defined by mobility, today's teenagers are now making demands of their mobile devices and, in doing so, redefining what mobility will be in the future, according to a national survey, "Teenagers: A Generation Unplugged," released by CTIA – The Wireless Association in conjunction with Harris Interactive.

As the wireless industry celebrates the upcoming 25th anniversary of the first commercial cell phone call (October 13, 1983), this in-depth online study of more than 2,000 teenagers around the nation sheds new light on how today’s teens feel about wireless products and services, how they are using them today and most importantly, how they would like to use them in the future. A growing wireless segment, teens view their cell phones as more than just an accessory.

"A quarter of a century of wireless innovation, new products and customized features has transformed our everyday lives," said Steve Largent, President and CEO, CTIA – The Wireless Association. "Teens are a pivotal segment of wireless users. As the first generation born into a wireless society, how they use their cell phones and what they expect of these devices in the future will drive the next wave of innovation in our industry."

Impact on Teen Life

According to the Harris Interactive study, second to clothing, teens say a cell phone tells the most about a person’s social status or popularity, outranking jewelry, watches and shoes. The study also found that cell phones are fast becoming a social necessity among teens. A majority (57 percent) view their cell phone as the key to their social life.

With nearly four out of every five teens (17 million) carrying a wireless device (a 40 percent increase since 2004), it’s not surprising that six in ten teens (57 percent) credit mobility for improving their quality of life. Over half of the respondents (52 percent) agree the cell phone has become a new form of entertainment and one-third of teens currently play games on their phone. On a more serious note, 80 percent of teens surveyed said their cell phone provided a sense of security while on the go, confirming the cell phone has become their mobile safety net when needing a ride (79 percent), getting important information (51 percent), or just helping out someone in trouble (35 percent).

From texting to talking and logging on to social networking sites, teens carry cell phones to have access to friends, family and current events. Ironically, while only one in five (18 percent) teens care to pinpoint the location of their family and friends via their cell phone, 36 percent hate the idea of a cell phone feature allowing others to know their exact location.

Texting Replacing Talking

Another significant trend confirmed by the study is that texting is indeed replacing talking among teens. Teens admitted spending nearly an equal amount of time talking as they do texting each month. The feature is so important to them that if texting was no longer an option, 47 percent of teens say their social life would end or be worsened – especially among females (54 percent compared to 40 percent of males).

Teens say texting has critical advantages because it offers more options, including multitasking, speed, the option to avoid verbal communication, and because it is fun – in that order. With more than 1 billion text messages sent each day, it is no surprise that 42 percent of teens say they can even text blindfolded, the study revealed.

"Teens have created a new form of communication. We call it texting, but in essence it is a reflection of how teens want to communicate to match their lifestyles. It is all about multitasking, speed, privacy and control," said Joseph Porus, Vice President & Chief Architect, Technology Group, Harris Interactive. "Teens in this study are crying for personalization and control of exactly what a wireless device or plan can do for them."

Reshaping the Future

The Harris Interactive study provided a futuristic snapshot as to what teens would like to change about wireless services and devices. They want cell phones that break boundaries and are personalized to fit their lifestyle. Topping their wireless wish list are phones that:

* Guarantee secured data access to the user only (80 percent)
* Provide accessibility to personal health records (66 percent)
* Present opportunities to be educated anywhere in the world (66 percent)
* Bring users closer to global issues impacting teens’ world (63 percent)

"Teens expect mobile technology to change the social fabric of their world and they have laid the future at the feet of this technology like no other," said Porus. "To our knowledge, no other industry carries these hopes; while teens are interested in cars and music and movies, it is mobility that will change their future!"

While there is no crystal ball to show what phones of the future will look like, the study found that teens are excited and open-minded about the wireless possibilities. The survey found that teens’ ideal future mobile device would feature five applications – phone, MP3 player, GPS, laptop computer and video player – and the following desired features:

* Shock and water proof (81 percent)
* Endless power (80 percent)
* Privacy screen (58 percent)
* Flexible material and folds into different shapes and sizes (39 percent)
* Artificial intelligence – ask it questions and it gives answers (38 percent)

"In the future, mobility for teens means mobile banking, mobile voting, location based services, personal entertainment – the sky is the limit for how mobile our lifestyles can be," commented Largent. "We’ve certainly come a long way in 25 years and expect teens to be a growth driver for the industry and have a major impact on the wireless landscape for years to come."

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