MADRID: Young Spanish consumers use their mobile phones for everything from flirting to studying, and regard camera quality as a particularly important feature when choosing a smartphone, new research has shown.

Tuenti Móvil, the mobile virtual network operator, drew up a picture of Spanish youth's internet habits based on a year of monthly surveys covering 2,000 people aged 16-35 each time.

It found that 94% of young Spaniards had a mobile phone and most of these (84%) were using it to go online. Almost half (47%) had data plans although there was sometimes a hazy awareness of what that entailed – 37% of respondents did not know what 1GB of data meant for their smartphone.

Phones were most commonly used for taking pictures (62%), flirting (55%) – whether through instant messaging (53%) or social networks (21%) – and studying (40%).

"[Mobile] phones have become the most-used tool in social communication, not only to interact with friends and acquaintances through the internet, but also as a substitute for other tools such as clocks, cameras or mp3," noted Maria de Sousa- Valadas, director of customer and community at Tuenti Móvil.

"It is normal, as these sociological changes evolve, that human behaviours are changing," she added.

One of the ways in which behaviour is changing is the rise of "phubbing" – the practice of focusing attention on a smartphone to snub someone in the user's presence. Two thirds (67%) of respondents admitted having done so.

Most youth spent more time taking photos with their phone than talking on it. And some 60% of those surveyed preferred to retouch their photos via apps such as Instagram.

With regard to studies, 34% said they used their mobile phones to exchange study notes with classmates while 26% looked for information online. During school hours, 44% did not use their phones and for the 56% that did – despite their use being banned – their time was divided between social networks (26 %), chatting with friends (24%) and taking pictures (5%).

Privacy was a factor that concerned many: 85% raised it as an issue, with 29.5% saying this worried them most. Almost two thirds (64%) said they always set privacy options in the applications they downloaded, while 24.5% only did so in their most-used apps. The remainder did not set any privacy options.

Data sourced from Tuenti Móvil; additional content by Warc staff