Posted: 20 Feb. 2018 10 min. read

Consumers: getting smarter about smartphones?

For nearly two decades, Deloitte Global has issued an annual Predictions report, which focuses on trends, transformation and opportunity across the telecommunications, technology, media and entertainment ecosystem. This year, one of our 11 Predictions incorporated data from Deloitte’s recent Global Mobile Consumer Survey to consider how consumer smartphone behavior may evolve in 2018 and beyond.

When looking at how consumers may interact with their mobile devices going forward, Deloitte Global predicts that most adults of all ages will continue to be comfortable using their phones a lot—even hundreds of times per day. Instead of “always, anytime, for anything” usage, however, we predict that consumers will become more focused about their smartphone interactions, and will consider changing their behavior usage when it is distracting them from activities that they want (or need) to concentrate on more fully. Already, we’ve seen an effort to avoid distracted driving; consumers in 2018 may also take steps to limit distracted sleeping, distracted walking and distracted talking.

Deloitte Global predicts that 45 percent of global adult smartphone users in 2018 will worry they are using their phones too much for certain activities, and will consider actions that refine usage, including deleting certain apps, turning off audio notifications, and keeping devices stored in a briefcase or purse. Further, Deloitte Global predicts this concern will be highest for young people who have smartphones, with nearly two-thirds of 18- to 24-year-olds around the world feeling they are using their devices too much, and with over half trying to control usage.

Deloitte Global notes the need to exercise caution in defining appropriate smartphone usage. Smartphones now act as figurative Swiss Army Knives for consumer needs, serving as wristwatches, radios, TVs, computers, cameras, video recorders, maps, newspapers, gaming devices, magazines and much more. Placed in that context, glancing at a phone 50 or more times per day is not, in and of itself, a sign of excessive use; rather, it shows what an exceedingly useful device the smartphone is. In addition, potential distractions during activities such as driving may be reduced as smartphone technologies continue to become more sophisticated—for example, voice recognition, personal digital assistants, Bluetooth devices and other hands-free functionality.

Moreover, there is variation in attitudes and behaviors around the world. Fewer than one in five Japanese smartphone owners think they use their smartphone excessively, while nearly three in four Mexicans with smartphones are concerned and nearly two-thirds were actively trying to limit usage. In most countries, the percentages of those worried about overuse and of those trying to cut back were very similar. In the Nordic countries, the proportion of Finns worried about phone usage was about half that of Norwegians.

And of course, not all usage is equal. Checking one’s phone while watching TV or a film, commuting on public transit, or out shopping is generally benign. According to the Predictions report, it seems likely that when people talk about cutting back on phone usage, they are not talking about these instances.

Bottom line

Both for the telecom industry and for individual users, the goal should not be to strive for some arbitrary number of glances at a phone each day. In fact, as consumers watch ever more video on smartphones instead of TVs, as they perform work tasks on smartphones instead of computers and as m-commerce continues moving to the smartphone, Deloitte Global believes that the number of daily glances will continue to rise.

Instead, the focus for 2018 can be on balance in usage. It is possible that with new technologies to promote safety, along with increasing consumer awareness of good phone etiquette, that consumer behavior patterns may organically change. This in turn presents new opportunities for phone manufacturers, software/app developers and network operators to explore growth in areas like increased m-commerce, m-payments and maturing smartphone apps. The powerful combination of consumer behavior and enterprise opportunity is likely to help us to stay safe, engaged—and get the most from our valued mobile devices. 


Meet the author

Craig Wigginton

Craig Wigginton

Deloitte Global Telecom Sector Leader

Craig Wigginton, Deloitte & Touche LLP, leads the Telecommunications industry in the US, globally, and for the Americas. With more than 28 years of experience, he serves as a key advisor to senior executives. In his current industry roles he leads a cross functional practice and has unique insights into the critical issues affecting our clients as well as the mobile ecosystem as a whole. He speaks at conferences worldwide and leads Deloitte’s Global Mobile Consumer Survey.