Fun With Stats, Or Damn, That's A Lot Of Lost Phones
from the doesn't-add-up dept
Statistics can be tricky, no doubt about that. They’ve tripped up many a journalist, and given that, you’d imagine that writers would be pretty careful to thoroughly check out the numbers they cite, but no. A column today from an “award-winning” UPI columnist makes the bold claim that 65 percent of Americans lost their mobile phones last year, and it cost $600 million to replace them. Wow, that’s pretty amazing — if only it were true. You see, only about 70% of Americans own cell phones, according to trade-body statistics. So if the author’s figures were right, that would mean more than 90 percent of cell-phone users, or 187 million people, lost and had to replace their phones in 2005. That sounds great, except when you consider that just 105 million or so cell phones were sold in the country during the year. And if that $600 million figure were accurate, it would mean the “cost” of replacing all those handsets would be an average of $3.20 each, which doesn’t make too much sense. To make it even better, while trying to do some mobile virus scare-mongering (when there’s really nothing to worry about), he mentions “the 45 percent of mobile phone owners who don’t lose their phones on an annual basis” — a figure that doesn’t jibe with anything else he cites at all. So while wild claims and bogus statistics might make for an exciting lead, readers probably deserve a little more fact-checking.