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Articles / Applying to College / Smartphones on Campus

Smartphones on Campus

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | Feb. 23, 2012
Smartphones on Campus

I get tons of news releases, no doubt inspired by this blog's connections across the Web. I had to chuckle at the news release (highlighted below) that I received yesterday. It addresses the issue of the increasing use of smartphones by college students. If you are a high school senior (or the parent of one), you probably already have a smartphone and are a virtuoso at using it.

The reason I chuckled is because I thought back to my college days, living in the dorms. Our dorm floor had a single pay phone on the wall, located midway between the extreme ends of the building. If someone wanted to reach us, they would have to call the pay phone (first, obtaining the phone number), then hope that someone would answer it (which sometimes didn't happen--just think of the poor guys who lived in rooms close to that phone), and hope that the answering party would be good enough to track down the person who was being called. Get the picture?

The evolution of phones on campus has gone from that single pay phone, to phones inside the dorm rooms, to cell phones, to smartphones, which offer all-consuming connections to the entire world all the time. To get a taste of how prevalent smartphones are, just take a stroll trough the campus of any college. You'll see an army of wandering students (and faculty) walking zombie-like either blabbing to someone on the other end of the line, texting with one thumb while balancing a backpack and/or books, or surfing the Web in search of the latest scores. I have to wonder what is the next evolutionary step in this technological tsunami.

Anyway, to see just how completely saturated smartphone use is on campus these days, take a look at the following survey results. You may be surprised, or at least inspired to get your high school senior (or yourself) one of these amazing machines.

Smartphone use by collegians dramatically increases as mobile Internet use soars

The smartphone lifestyle is rapidly taking over college campuses, leading to dramatic changes in the amount and type of mobile content being downloaded, used and sent by college students, says a new report from Ball State University.

A February survey of Ball State students found that smartphone ownership more than doubled in three years, jumping to 69 percent from 27 percent in 2009, said Michael Hanley, an associate professor of advertising and director of Ball State's Institute for Mobile Media Research. He has conducted surveys on the use of mobile devices by students since 2004.

Hanley's research on smartphones compares to a recent Nielsen report that two-thirds of 24- to 34-year-olds have smartphones, the highest of any age segments.

The study also found that Internet access has soared with the use of smartphones, with 96 percent of such devices providing online access as compared to 30 percent of feature phones. About 83 percent of feature phone users have never accessed the Internet through their mobile phone.

"Smartphones have completely transformed the daily lives of college students," Hanley said. "This group simply doesn't sit around in their residence halls or apartments. They like to get out and do things. And smartphones have applications that allow them to stay connected with their peers by posting on social media sites or texting their friends."

Smartphone growth could hit 80 percent in 2013 and top out around 90 percent in 2014, he said.

College students' desire to access social networks such as Facebook and Twitter is what's driving smartphone use, said Hanley, pointing out that 91 percent of smartphone users access such sites as compared to only 19 percent of feature phones users. Movies, music, news, video and weather information have also shown strong growth among smartphone users.

Hanley's research also found that text messaging has become the digital shorthand for collegians, with 87 percent using it on a daily basis.

"The smartphone isn't used to make calls by most college students," he said. "They text each other more often because they can send short messages. Only 8 percent said they preferred to email someone."

The study also found:

* About 99 percent of smartphone respondents said they send and receive text messages, 89 percent use email on their smartphone and 59 percent send instant messages.

* About 95 percent of smartphone users take and send photographs as compared to 74 percent of feature phone users.

* About 60 percent of smartphone owners take and send video versus 28 percent for feature phones.

* About two-thirds of smartphone and feature phone users rely on their parents to pay for their mobile data service.

Hanley's research also found that students with feature phones and smartphones report seeing more advertisements and marketing messages on their mobile devices, and they're not happy about it.

About 70 percent reported being annoyed to receive an ad, and about 75 percent were "concerned" or "concerned a little" about getting mobile ads. However, 64 percent said they would be more receptive if marketers would offer coupons and incentives.

In future surveys, Hanley will ask about the use of tablets as such devices become more affordable and are being incorporated into the classroom by many universities across the country.

"I believe tablets are going to be the next mobile communication device to take hold on college campuses," he said. "Personal computers and laptops are a dead-end industry because they are simply too large. Tablets are compact and offer just about everything a mobile phone has right now. Apple may roll out a tablet with a smaller screen than the iPad in order to compete with e-readers, which are extremely popular and less expensive."


The shrinking-size syndrome for tech items reminds me of what one writer predicted about the cell phone's future. He said that cell phone "prestige" is judged by how small your phone is. He predicted that ultimately, the most prestigious phones will be the size of a grain of rice and disappear inside one's ear. The only problem I see with that is being able to text and surf the Web. Not to worry, though. By then most commands will be issued by thought control. One possible catch: Do you know what I'm thinking now? :-)


Be sure to check out all my college-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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