Americans Increasingly Dependent On Smartphones, According To Study


Almost two-thirds of Americans turn to their smartphones within 10 minutes of waking up. This is one of the main findings from a new study by RootMetrics which looked at the growing dependency of people based in the US on their devices.

Other findings from the study point to the increasing number of devices being added to a consumer's data plan, and how social interaction is one of the most fundamental smartphone use cases for a lot of people. For example, the study found that 32-percent of people primarily use their phone for checking social media, while 34-percent said they spend most of their time on a phone texting. Both of which are likely to be good news for carriers, as is the suggestion that more people are connecting more devices to their mobile data plan. As the study found that 38-percent of people have added a secondary device to their plan, such as a tablet or an e-reader. To a lesser degree than some of the other stats, the study found that video consumption was another popular smartphone pastime for US consumers, and this was not just relevant to a quick video viewing here or there. As 21-percent of people said they used their smartphone to watch more than seven hours of video each week.

Two other interesting findings from the study focus in on shopping and the Internet of Things (IoT). On the shopping front, RootMetrics argues there's a slight disconnect between how consumers view mobile shopping and mobile payments, with the former being a worthwhile activity and the latter less so. For example, the study found that while 45-percent plan to use that smartphone to shop during the Holiday period, a similar number (37-percent) did not see as much value in using their smartphone to actually pay for goods, and especially when compared to more traditional payment solutions, such as cash and cards. Like, mobile payments, it seems the IoT bug is also not as prevalent in the US as some might think, although the study suggests this could be more of a generational aspect in play due to the data suggesting millennials were far more frequent in both smart home product ownership and usage.


Background: The study was based on survey responses given by 1,200 adults in the US and echoes sentiments made by other reports and organizations recently which have suggested that technology is becoming more of a necessity than a luxury for some people. To the point where some of the findings highlight the more worrying addictive elements of owning personal electronic devices. For example, one of the biggest 'in agreement' findings from the study was the unsafe feeling many said they experience when in mobile dead zones – with almost half of those surveyed feeling the same way about this. It also seems consumers are very clear on who should shoulder the responsibility of an unsafe feeling with the survey finding a similar number of people blamed carriers directly for the occasions when they were connection-stranded.

While this level of dependency would on the surface appear to be a good thing for smartphone-makers, operating system creators and carriers, the response to reports like this have already led to many companies looking at ways in which they can help smartphone users lessen their dependency. Google, for example, recently launched its 'Digital Wellbeing' initiative which looks to help people become better informed on their usage habits with a view to finding a better balance between how often they use – and don't use – their technology-based devices. While phone-maker Motorola recently teamed up with Ipsos and released another study which, among other things, highlighted what Motorola referred to as "alarming findings" regarding the phone-life balance experienced by many. Once again, in spite of this report coming through from a company that in reality directly benefits from increased smartphone usage, Motorola made it clear it felt a responsibility to understand the recent device dependency trend and identify ways in which it can help consumers lessen that dependence. And these are two of the examples of the many reports and initiatives that have been set up recently, and which all collectively highlight the growing need to understand smartphone (and other device) usage – not just from those looking to oversee and regulate industries like this one, but also those directly within and benefiting from the industry.

Impact: Although this report adds to the growing literature on smartphone addiction and dependency, this still remains a highly under-researched area and therefore a lot of the deeper understanding of the causes, effects, and outcomes of how consumers use technology in today's world is still unknown. Likewise, it still remains unclear just how unhealthy the use of technology is for those who would be considered the most heavily time-invested in their products, and equally, how useful the current solutions offered are at helping with the situation. For example, although initiatives like Digital Wellbeing are designed to help people better manage their time, it is more of a band-aid than anything else as these solutions still rely on the person using their device in the first place, proving counter-intuitive to the purpose of the initiative.


There's also the age issue which is something that is likely to become an even greater factor in the future. This latest report picks up on this point by highlighting that younger users are showing heightened levels of awareness and interaction as a byproduct of having grown up in a world where the technology is available. Which leads to the natural suggestion that the level of dependence shown by these younger users is not the same sort of issue typically associated with addition. With the difference being less of an issue where someone is over-using a device, and more of one where the increased use is simply the norm within a society. In the grand scheme of things, this latter aspect is likely to be a much harder issue to deal with due to the more inherent and fundamental issue with technology exposure beyond the individual. Even more so if the solutions offered by companies continue to focus on using devices, as a means to decrease device usage.

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John has been writing about and reviewing tech products since 2014 after making the transition from writing about and reviewing airlines. With a background in Psychology, John has a particular interest in the science and future of the industry. Besides adopting the Managing Editor role at AH John also covers much of the news surrounding audio and visual tech, including cord-cutting, the state of Pay-TV, and Android TV. Contact him at [email protected]

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