- The Washington Times - Monday, April 3, 2006

From combined dispatches

Even cell-phone users get irritated at others who yak on their portables about their personal business in public.

And the offended don’t think they are among the callers who get on other people’s nerves, an Associated Press-AOL-Pew poll found.

Most cell users find their phones useful, with half keeping them on all the time.

Almost nine in 10 say they encounter others using those phones in an annoying way. Only 8 percent of cell users acknowledge their own use of cell phones is sometimes rude.

“People tend to talk louder on the phone. That’s quite irritating,” said Pamela Sorenson, 57, of Bellingham, Wash. “I often hear young people, mostly college age, talking about dating and personal things I don’t want to know about.”

Alane Friedman, 59, a bullying-prevention consultant from Minnesota, said there should be phone booths in public places for people to use their cell phones.

“In certain places it can be annoying,” especially on the Metro, said Antoinette Coffey, an Alexandria office administrator. “It’s more about etiquette.”

Steve Barrett, 49, of Odenton said he thinks most cell-phone users are courteous.

“I don’t have any problems with cell-phone use in public areas,” he said.

More than two-thirds of cell-phone users say it would be hard to give up their portable, said the poll, one of the most extensive news surveys of cell-phone users.

About a fourth of the cell-phone users polled, 26 percent, said they can’t imagine life without their cell phone. Three-fourths of cell users say they have used it in an emergency.

“My cell phone is pretty much a necessity — sometimes a pain but a necessity,” said Sandra Moore of Colorado Springs.

“I have children and the cell phone gives me the freedom to be places I need to be. It’s easier to communicate with people; you can reach them almost any time.

“But that means people can reach me any time,” she grumbled. “Sometimes, I just turn the ringer off.”

Almost one-fourth of those polled say too many people try to get in touch with them on their cell phones — just one of many headaches balanced against the devices’ advantages.

The poll also found:

• More than a fourth, 28 percent, said they sometimes don’t drive as safely as they should because they are using a cell phone.

• More than a third, 36 percent, said they sometimes are shocked at the size of their service bill.

The bulk of cell users use it traditionally — as a portable phone. But cell phones increasingly include built-in cameras, MP3 players, games and computers with the Internet and e-mail.

Young adults and minorities are drawn to the multiple uses of a cell phone.

They are more likely than older adults and whites to send text messages, take pictures, use the Internet and play music with their cell phones.

More than half, 55 percent, of young adults take still pictures with their phones.

Forty seven percent play games and 28 percent use the Internet, according to the poll of more than 1,200 cell-phone users.

“We think of them as mobile phones, but the personal computer, mobile phone and the Internet are merging into some new medium like the personal computer in the 1980s or the Internet in the 1990s,” said Howard Rheingold, an author who has taught at Stanford University and written extensively about the effects of technology.

The poll of 1,503 adults included 1,286 cell-phone users and was conducted March 8 to 26. It has a margin of sampling error of three percentage points.

About half of the interviews, 752, were conducted by dialing land lines and 751 were conducted by dialing cell phones.

• Walter Frick contributed to this report.

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