Has your smartphone become your best friend? Do you use it to get out of awkward conversations with acquaintances whose names you’ve forgotten? Do you pull it out when you’re on a boring date? Or perhaps its there to the rescue when you’re lost in the middle of the Hume Highway and your GPS refuses to cooperate.

A recent research by Nielsen and Telstra that surveyed over 2800 Australians found that we are more reliant on smartphones then ever, with many smartphone users logging online and surfing the mobile web more frequently than they do on a personal computer.

The Telstra Smartphone Index 2011 revealed that 46% of mobile phone owners now have a smartphone, and is a 15% growth from last year. It has also been predicted that the number will grow to more than 60% by 2012.

Rebekah O’Flaherty, Telstra’s consumer executive director said that this soar in demand for smartphones is challenging personal computers as a preferred way to access certain online content.

The study has found that one in four smartphone surfers now visit social networking sites more on their mobiles than they do on a computer while one in five search the web more on their phones than on a computer.

Contrary to popular belief, it is also not just Generation Y who are responsible for the smartphone craze, with 39% of smartphone users aged 40 and over.

The study also found that smartphones are becoming an integral part of Australians’ lives, and are being used daily to satisfy a variety of needs:

  • 40% of smartphone web users access social networking sites like Facebook on a daily basis, up from 31% in 2010
  • Almost 50% of smartphone web-surfers used their smartphones to find out more about a product prior to purchasing, with almost 25% doing price-checks on their phones while on the shop floor.
  • 40% also admit to using their smartphone to avoid a social encounter, with 12% having pretended to use their gadget
  • 25% have used smartphones in a business meeting to kill boredom
  • 56% have used their smartphones in bed
  • Over 30% of smartphone web users have access the mobile web while on the toilet
  • 11% have also used their smartphones while on a date or during a movie in a cinema.

Aside from social networking sites, email and internet search are the two other most frequently accessed sites via mobile. The Bureau of Meteorology is interesting the fifth most visited site for smartphone surfers! Apps are also popular with the Australian users, according to O’Flaherty. “Almost one in four smartphone web-surfers have downloaded more than 20 free apps. Social network apps and games are rated most useful, followed by weather, transport, maps, banking and health-related apps”.

Apple should also brace itself for some serious competition, with 24% of smartphone users now using an Android-powered device, which is a big jump of 5% last year.