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Yesterday the Pew Research Center released the latest results of its periodic survey of Americans’ technology use and Internet habits.  The findings bear out one of our major guiding principles here at JouleBug: the future is mobile.

Pew found that 37% of teens aged 12-17 own smartphones (up from 23% in 2011), and 23% of teens have a tablet.  About a quarter of teenagers say they go online primarily with a phone, as opposed to a desktop or laptop computer.

Keep in mind we’re talking about teenagers here, the vast majority of whom do not have sources of income separate from their parents.  Financial dependency notwithstanding, smartphone (and tablet) ownership is quickly becoming the norm in this age cohort, and Internet access through those devices is becoming preferable to use of a computer.

This is why JouleBug is a mobile app first and foremost.  We believe that an always-on Internet-connected device that you carry with you all the time is a powerful and fundamentally different tool than a computer.

We’ve built the app to take advantage of that power: JouleBug emphasizes sustainable actions that are appropriate to each user’s location, time of day, and the day of the week.  At home on the weekend?  We show you badges related to typical weekend home activities like lawn care.  Away from home at lunchtime?  We show you ways you can make your lunch a little easier on the planet.

We also believe that the trends Pew finds in teens’ use of mobile devices point the way toward the future for the adult population.  We couldn’t put the implications of this any better than one of the report’s co-authors, Mary Madden:

In many ways, teens represent the leading edge of mobile connectivity, and the patterns of their technology use often signal future changes in the adult population.

We know that not everyone has a mobile device right now, and full market saturation — the point at which everyone who wants a mobile device has one — is probably many years away.  But we think the day when there’s at least one mobile device user in every American household is close at hand, and teenagers are leading the way there.