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Cellphones the key to teen cool, study says

September 12, 2008 |  1:33 pm

Teenphones Teens are notoriously judgmental. Wear the wrong shade of jeans, and you'll be branded L for Loser for the rest of your life. But today's teens might have it even harder: Now they have to have just the right cellphone too.

A study released today at the CTIA trade show by Harris Interactive and CTIA-the Wireless Assn., shows that teens say that after clothing, a cellphone tells the most about a person's social status or popularity. That means that having an iPhone, say, will give you more cool points than if you have hip jewelry, swanky watches or Kobe's shoes. Having the latest cellphone is "absolutely essential," according to 28% of all teens and 34% of kids 13 to 15 years old.

About 4 of every 5 teens carry cellphones, up 40% from 2004, and nearly half of them say having a cellphone is "key to my social life." They've turned into teenage mutant ninja texters: 42% of the teens surveyed said they could text while blindfolded. Surprisingly, male teens talk on their phones more than they text, while females text more than they talk.

Advertisers will be happy to know that 59% of teens would be willing to provide personal information to wireless providers so that they can receive targeted text messages, and about 40% of teens believe that mobile phones should be free and paid for by advertisers, kind of like television.

"As the first generation born into a wireless society, how [teens] use their cellphones and what they expect of these devices in the future will drive the next wave of innovation in our industry," said Steve Largent, president and chief executive of CTIA-the Wireless Assn.

So what do teens expect of these devices? If Largent's right and what teens want is what we'll see down the road, the next generation of cellphones will be shock- and waterproof and scratch free, and will be able to control appliances in the home, translate any language in seconds and talk back when we ask it questions. Oh, and it will also be able to read our brain waves, which some of us might think is creepy, but evidently teens think is cool.

Mom and Dad, sounds as if it's time to up the allowance. A multilingual cellphone that can control the blender might be pretty expensive, but you don't want your teen to be uncool, right?

-- Alana Semuels

Photo: drumsnwhistles via Flickr