Almost a decade ago, a raft of research showed increasing addiction to smartphones: studies featured on this site included headlines such as “Young People Completely Wedded to Their Mobile Phones” and “Smartphone Addiction: 7 in 10 Adult Owners Keep Them Close Most of the Time.” As it happens, though, new data from Kantar suggests that smartphone owners are becoming more blasé about their phones.
According to Kantar US MONITOR data, just 48% of adult smartphone owners in the US last year said that they could not get by without their smartphone. That compares with 50% who said the same in 2019, and a range of 65-67% who agreed between 2014 and 2017. In recent years, then, there’s been a large decline in the share of smartphone owners who feel that they can’t live without their phone.
Given the increasing importance of digital media amid the pandemic, this seems puzzling. The Kantar analysts suggest that rather than Americans’ dependence on phones decreasing, there’s simply “a lack of enthusiasm about our devices… In other words, it appears Americans’ love affair with their phones has tempered over time as they have gotten used to the tech.”
One reflection of this collective shrug may be found in other data cited by Kantar from its research: the majority (56%) of Americans surveyed feel that smartphones today are all pretty much the same. This view is consistent across generations, from Gen Z (54%) to Millennials (55%), Gen Xers (55%) and Boomers (56%). Likewise, fewer people are feeling the need to keep up to date with the latest tech products and services: just 52% felt this way last year, down from 64% in 2004. Case in point: almost one-quarter (24%) of smartphone owners now have a device they’ve had for at least 3 years, up from 19% in December 2019.
This is of course a problem for consumer tech marketers, given smartphone saturation. One thing that might move the needle, though, is 5G: this capability is increasingly being mentioned as a driver of device upgrades.
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