WASHINGTON (AFP) -- Most U.S. smartphone owners use their device's location service for directions or other purposes but only a small percentage share their location with friends and others, a new survey shows.

The Pew Research Center's Internet Project survey found 74 per cent of adult smartphone owners said they use their phone to get directions or other information based on their current location.

Among social media users ages 18 and older, 30 per cent say that at least one of their accounts is currently set up to include their location in their posts, up from 14 per cent who said they had ever done this in 2011.

The survey found a small drop in the number of smartphone owners who use "check in" location services: around 12 per cent of adult smartphone owners said they use a geosocial service to "check in" to certain locations or share their location with friends, down from 18 per cent in early 2012.

Among those who do check in with their locations, 39 per cent said they did so on Facebook, 18 per cent on Foursquare and 14 per cent on Google Plus.

The survey highlights the increasing role of smartphones which can track users' locations, which raises privacy and safety concerns but also offers opportunities for tech firms to tell customers what is near them.

Some prior surveys indicate a number of mobile phone users have disabled location-tracking features at some point due to privacy concerns.

The findings were based on a survey of 2,252 adults from April 17 to May 19, with a margin of error estimated at 2.3 percentage points.