Of people who own smartphones in the United States, 55% use the device for some kind of location-specific task, according to a study published today by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. In total, 23% of all American adults use location services on their phones or via social media sites on the desktop.

Does this mean that Americans are suddenly check-in-happy Foursquare fanatics? Not quite. The survey's definition of "location services" is pretty broad. The majority of respondents who said they participated in such an activity were referring to things like mapping out directions or receiving location-based recommendations on their phones.

Only 12% of smartphone owners said they use a location-based check-in service like Foursquare, Gowalla or Facebook Places. That works out to a mere 4% of all adults. In general, such services are also more likely to be used by younger people and by non-whites, especially Latinos.

So how many people own smartphones? According to Pew's latest numbers, about 35% of American adults are carrying around devices that qualify as smartphones, a number that is continually on the rise. This isn't far off from Nielsen's latest numbers, which suggested that smartphones make up 40% of U.S. mobile phones.

While usage of location services is growing, it pales in comparison to several other tasks people use their phones for. Those would include sending and recieving text messages (92%), sending photos and videos to people (80%) and accessing email (76%).