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Mobile Multitasking Becomes Ubiquitous

December 11, 2015

The mobile phone: Simple distraction, or destroyer of familial bonds and any semblance of true conversation?

Research from Deloitte shows that the jury is out on that. American consumers are looking at their smartphones in the aggregate eight billion times per day, the survey says. That’s a bit mindboggling: If we consider anyone over the age of 18 a consumer, based on census data, that's 77 percent of our 316 million citizens, or 243 million people. So, that’s an average of about 33 phone checks per day per person. If one adjusts for the non-tech-savvy, those without cell phones, the elderly and the infirm, the legally blind and so on, it becomes clear that quite a lot of us are probably checking our phones far more often than that.

Deloitte found that there are, of course, the heavy users: four percent of consumers in the U.S. look at their phones more than 200 times a day. But nearly half (48 percent) of consumers check their phones up to 25 times per day.

The firm also uncovered that increasingly, we are doing this while engaged in other activities, like watching television, shopping and even while talking to friends and family. If that characterization conjures up images of, say, a squirrel with ADD, you’re not too far off when we delve into the nitty-gritty of the report findings:

  • Sixty one percent of American consumers indicate that they sometimes, if not often, use their smartphone while out shopping.
  • Forty seven percent of consumers use their smartphones while talking to friends and family.
  • More than one-third of all consumers use their smartphones predominately without the prompt of an incoming message or alert.

Further, the increased levels of screen time continue to spread across generations. For instance, contrary to common trending, the youngest demographic, age 18 to 24, didn't report the most mobile phone use while watching television "at least occasionally" – those aged 25 to 34 took the top spot on that.

Increasing mobile attachment is seen also in both the speed at which we first look at our phone during the day, as well as the number of times we look at our phones.

Upon waking, 17 percent of smartphone owners, check their phones immediately, up from 14 percent a year ago. A full 43 percent of consumers check their phones within five minutes, up from 39 percent a year ago. This year, text messages replaced checking e-mails as the first thing people do on their smartphones every day (31 percent vs. 24 percent respectively). And, e-mails experienced the largest year over year decline of any activity.

When it comes to bedtime, 13 percent of smartphone users look at their phone immediately before preparing to sleep, while 33 percent check their phones within five minutes before going to sleep.

And what are we doing on our phones? Activities vary. Almost all (97 percent) of smartphone owners have used their phone at least once to take a photo, and 74 percent have used a phone to share a photo via social media. Interestingly, the most intense photo takers are either young (between ages of 18 to 24), or female smartphone owners who take and share photos daily.

So while phones have largely replaced cameras, other mobile use arenas are up-and-coming, like mobile payments. The use of mobile devices to make in-store payments has nearly quadrupled over last year, with an increase from 5 percent in 2014 to 18 percent today. The 25 to 34 year old demographic is driving the majority of mPayments activity for in-store purchases at 36 percent.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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