Most Smartphone Owners Feel Naked Without Their Devices

April 11, 2012

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Data-driven | Media & Entertainment | Mobile Phone | Telecom | Youth & Gen X

arbitron-smartphone-owners-device-proximity-april2012.jpgThe vast majority of smartphone appear tethered to their devices, finds a pair of separate studies released in April 2012. According to Arbitron and Edison Research survey results [download page], a whopping 91% of smartphone owners say their device is within arm’s length either always (60%) or most of the time (31%). And findings from a Time magazine study indicate that 65% of digital natives take their devices from room to room with them, with these consumers saying that smartphones are the first thing they reach for when they wake up and when they leave home. Smartphones are also the first device digital natives will think of having close at hand when home, and the first they will turn to if they wake up in the middle of the night.

The report defines digital natives as consumers who grew up with mobile technology as part of their everyday lives. Among digital immigrants (who first learned about mobile technology in their adult lives), TV is their primary medium of choice when they first wake up, as it is before bed and if they wake up in the middle of the night.

Digital Natives Switch Platforms Every Other Minute

Time’s “A Biometric Day in the Life” evaluated the behavior of digital natives and immigrants by having them wear biometric belts, which measured their emotional engagement throughout their normal day, and glasses with embedded cameras that monitored which medium or platform they were using and when they altered their visual attention. The study found that digital natives switch their attention between media platforms (i.e. TVs, magazines, tablets, smartphones, or channels within platforms) on average 27 times per hour, compared to 17 for digital immigrants.

The effect of this near-constant switching is that digital natives are less likely to experience wide ranges of emotional responses. In fact, they were also more likely to than digital immigrants to be easily bored (47% vs. 36%), easily distracted (43% vs. 34%), and get nervous easily (47% vs. 33%).

Digital Natives More Likely to Engage in Mobile Activities

Somewhat unsurprisingly, digital natives are more apt to perform a range of mobile and social activities than their older counterparts. Looking at activities performed at least once the previous day, the Time study found that digital natives were 20% more likely to have made or received calls using a mobile phone (85% vs. 71%), and 63% more likely to have sent or received text messages (85% vs. 52%). In fact, 56% of digital natives said they prefer texting people rather than talking to them, compared with 28% of digital immigrants.

This is supported by the Arbitron and Edison Research survey results, which found that when not in person, 12-24-year-olds were more than twice as likely as the sample average to use text messaging most often when communicating with friends and family (44% vs. 21%). Similarly, 12-24-year-olds were far less likely to say that they most often talked on the phone with their friends and family (39% vs. 66%).

Other Findings:

  • According to the Arbitron study, smartphone users are more likely than non-smartphone cell phone users to perform a range of activities on their devices at least several times per day, including making or receiving calls (86% vs. 59%), sending or receiving text messages (78% vs. 34%), taking pictures with the phone’s camera (23% vs. 6%), and playing games (21% vs. 2%). An Experian report [download page] released in April 2012 also found a similar trend: according to those results, smartphone owners were more likely than any cell phone owners to perform a variety of activities in the past 30 days, including taking photos (79% vs. 72%) and playing games (45% vs. 31%)
  • Data from the Arbitron report indicates that smartphone owners represent half of the cell phone-owning population, and that close to two-thirds of adults aged 18-34 age group own a smartphone.

About the Data: The Arbitron and Edison Research findings are based on a national telephone survey conducted in both English and Spanish of 2,020 people aged 12 and older, in January and February 2012.

The Time study was conducted by Innerscope Research and monitored digital natives and digital immigrants for 300 hours.

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