Thursday, June 30, 2022
Smartphone news

Americans Have Close but Wary Bond With Their Smartphone


Story Highlights

  • Nearly six in 10 U.S. smartphone users say they use theirs too much
  • But larger majority say phone has improved their lives
  • Growing numbers rely more on phone than computer to do online tasks

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The percentage of U.S. adults saying they use their smartphone “too much” has increased markedly in recent years, rising from 39% when Gallup last asked this in 2015 to 58% today.

This sentiment was strongly age-contingent in 2015 and remains so now; however, all age groups have become more likely to express this concern. Also, this belief is pervasive not only among 20-somethings; smartphone users aged 30 to 49 (74%) are nearly as likely as those 18 to 29 (81%) to say they are on their phone too much. This contrasts with 47% of those 50 to 64 and 30% of those 65 and older.

As in 2015, there is little difference by gender in whether adults think they overuse their smartphone, with 60% of women and 56% of men now saying this.

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The latest findings are from a self-administered web survey of over 30,000 U.S. adults conducted in January and February of this year, using the probability-based Gallup Panel. Nearly all adults who took the poll, 97%, report they have a smartphone, up from 81% in the 2015 survey.

Two-Thirds of Americans Say Smartphone Has Made Their Life Better

Even as Americans believe they use their smartphone too much, nearly two-thirds think their smartphone has made their life better — 21% say it has made their life “a lot” better and 44% “a little” better. This has declined slightly from the 72% perceiving a net benefit in 2015.

Only 12% say smartphones have made their life worse to any degree, although this is double the rate in 2015.

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Other indicators of Americans’ personal connection to their smartphone haven’t changed since 2015.

  • Half of Americans agree with the statement, “I can’t imagine my life without my smartphone,” essentially unchanged from 47% seven years ago.
  • The percentage saying they would feel anxious if they lost their phone for a day — a potential marker of smartphone addiction — has held steady at 44% today versus 42% in 2015.
  • Just over eight in 10 adults (83%), similar to the rate in 2015 (82%), say they keep their smartphone near them almost all the time during their waking hours.

The percentage reporting they keep their smartphone near them at night while they sleep has increased slightly, from 63% to 72%. Additionally, a new question this year finds 64% saying they check their smartphone as soon as they wake up in the morning.

As is true for believing one spends too much time on their phone, Americans’ reports about their attachment to their phone are highly related to age. Adults younger than 50 are much more likely than those 50 and older to report they keep their phone with them around the clock and check it upon awaking, as well as saying they would be anxious if they lost it for a day. The age groups are less divergent in not being able to imagine their life without it. Just under half of older adults say this, versus 53% of 30- to 49-year-olds and 64% of 18- to 29-year-olds.

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Use of Smartphones for Online Shopping Gains the Most

The same poll asked smartphone users to say whether they mainly use their smartphone or a computer to perform a number of routine actions — such as browsing the internet and using social media — or whether they use these tools equally.

Since 2015, Americans have become much more likely to report that they do these tasks mainly on their smartphone, rather than on a computer.

  • The biggest change has been in using smartphones for online purchases, rising from 11% who said they spent more time on their smartphone than their computer for this in 2015 to 42% today, a 31-percentage-point increase.
  • There have been 23- to 25-point increases in Americans’ reliance on smartphones for browsing the internet, comparing prices or browsing products online, and managing one’s finances.
  • The percentage relying on smartphones to use social media has risen 17 points, similar to the 14-point increase for managing one’s investments.

There has been little change in the percentage mainly using their smartphone to check email, rising only six points, from 39% to 45%.

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When the tasks are ranked according to the 2022 percentage relying on smartphones for each, checking social media and browsing the internet top the list, with majorities of Americans more likely to rely on their smartphones and relatively few relying on computers. While not the majority, more also rely on their smartphone than on a computer to window-shop online and for email. By contrast, about as many choose their smartphone as choose a computer to make online purchases, manage their finances and manage their investments online.

Although computers are not Americans’ preferred platform for online tasks, majorities of adults consider them important for many of these activities if one includes the percentages who say they take advantage of both technologies.

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Bottom Line

Americans, it seems, are increasingly being outsmarted by their own phones, with a growing number believing they use their device too much. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they feel the need to resist its charms, as the vast majority think their smartphone has made their life better. Further, smartphones are increasingly becoming people’s preferred method for carrying out essential tasks, making the device itself more essential.

These findings may have positive implications if smartphones increase people’s ability to operate efficiently and stay connected with others. On the other hand, reliance on smartphones poses risks to people’s mental health and relationships should they become addicted, with younger Americans having the greatest potential to experience these adverse results.

Meanwhile, businesses of all types must constantly adapt to Americans’ increasing reliance on the small screen of an ever-present phone, rather than a computer, to window-shop, make purchases, read the news, do banking and investing, and no doubt many other things.

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