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Grandma and grandpa may not be doing it, but the rest of us are — and quite frequently at that. Of course, we’re talking about the growing phenomenon of using a cell phone while shopping in stores to look up product prices or reviews.

More than half of all adult cell-phone owners (52 percent) used their phone to either phone a friend, look up product reviews online, or comparison price shop during a 30-day holiday shopping period, according to Pew Research Center, a highly respected nonprofit center that studies the impact of the Internet on people and the world at large.

Pew conducted telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults in the U.S., and detailed its findings in a report on how Americans used their phones to help them shop this past holiday season. While shopping offline, 38 percent of cell owners called a friend for advice, 24 percent looked up online reviews, 25 percent compared prices via their cell phones, and 33 percent, or one third of cell owners, used their mobile device to either check online reviews or pricing information, according to Pew.

“These findings show that the growing availability of smartphones and other mobile devices has dramatically changed the shopping experience,” Pew senior research specialist Aaron Smith said. “Consumers are frequently using their phones to make sure they get the most highly-rated product at the best price, and in many cases they are willing to go elsewhere or delay their purchase until they find the right combination of value and quality.”

Perhaps most telling of this shift in consumer shopping behavior is that of the 33 percent of people who used their phone to look up product information in a store, one in five (19 percent), went on to skip the brick-and-mortar store checkout experience and make their purchase from an online store instead.

Who are these savvy price-conscious mobile shoppers? Primarily youngsters and middle-aged adults ages 18 to 49, college educated urban and suburbanites, and non-white cellphone owners, Pew found. Just 4 percent of mobile phone owners ages 65 and up, however, used their device to look up online product reviews.

Add this study to the mountain of evidence that shows that consumers want a hybrid offline and online shopping experience.

“I believe that you’re going to see more change in how consumers shop and pay … in the next three years, than we’ve seen in the last 20 years,” eBay president and CEO John Donahoe recently said of the trend. Donahoe’s company makes applications for in-store mobile comparison shopping, and eBay had an especially strong fourth quarter thanks in no small part to mobile-toting holiday shoppers.

Image via Coal Miki/Flickr

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