Poll: Smartphone users stay connected entire waking life

More than eight in 10 U.S. smartphone owners report keeping their device near them during their entire waking day, and a majority report checking their phone multiple times per hour, according to a new survey. 

A Gallup poll released Thursday confirms the trend of increasing smartphone use as the government seeks to free up more spectrum, or airwaves that help connect mobile devices to one another.

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The poll of nearly 16,000 U.S. adults who use smartphones found that 41 percent report checking their smartphone a few times an hour. Another 11 percent report checking their phone every few minutes. 

That number shoots up among 18-to-29 year olds. Twenty-two percent of that demographic report checking their phone every few minutes, while 51 percent report checking a few times an hour. 

Eighty-one percent of U.S. smartphone owners report keeping their phone near them nearly every waking hour. Sixty-three percent say they keep their phone near them while sleeping as well. 

Even with the high rate of use, the majority of Americans believe they do not use their phone as much as the average person — something Gallup describes as "a mathematical impossibility."

"It's possible that Americans either misperceive what others are doing, or that they feel it is a socially undesirable behavior and therefore want to believe that they aren't doing it as much as others," according to Gallup. 

Pew Research has found 64 percent of U.S. adults own smartphones — nearly double what it was in 2011. To satisfy that demand, the government has aimed to free up the amount of spectrum available for mobile service. 

Early in his first term, President Obama set a goal of freeing up 500 megahertz of spectrum by 2020 to keep up with predicted demand. 

On Wednesday, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said it was about halfway toward meeting that goal. A first-of-its-kind incentive auction for wireless companies to repurpose airwaves currently held by broadcasters is set for next year as well.

"Five years out, there is little debate about the accuracy of the President’s prediction – the public’s demand for wireless 'smart' devices has continued to grow exponentially along with the need for spectrum to help power this technology," said Paige Atkins in a blog post. She helps run the Office of Spectrum Management at the NTIA.