How often do you use your smartphone? How often do you check it? You might find that you use it a lot more than you would like if you think about it. You may even want to perform a test to see if you can go a day without. You also may want to observe how the people around you are using their smartphones as well.
Practically everyone uses a smartphone these days. About 85 percent of Americans own a device. And if you rule out children too young to have one (though that age seems to be decreasing) and people who literally cannot use one for some reason or another, then you might find that there aren’t many people left without one. And out of those without smartphones, there are plenty with standard cell phones. There are even some people with multiple smartphones (one for work and one for personal uses). And people are using them more and more as people get used to them.
Here is what you need to know about smartphones and more specifically their users in 2023:
How do Americans use their phones? How often do they use them, and what for? Let’s start with the answers to these questions:
- While the above data shows the steady growth and projected growth, the growth rate of total smartphone users is likely to drop. This is a simple result of market saturation. There are fewer people who don’t have a smartphone, so there’s nowhere in the United States for the market to expand.
- There is something of a regional divide when it comes to smartphone ownership. Urban areas have an 89 percent ownership rate. Suburban areas have an 84 percent ownership rate. Finally, rural areas only have an 80 percent ownership rate.
- People might be looking for a lot of new features and options, but ultimately people feel as though their phone is a lifeline and tool of connection. About 74 percent of people don’t feel alright leaving their phones at home when they leave.
- People use their smartphones an average of 2 hours, 54 minutes every single day. That is a large portion of someone’s waking life. It’s hard to imagine that people didn’t have access to these devices just two decades ago and are now using them constantly. And just because someone isn’t actively using it doesn’t mean it is not grabbing a person’s attention. If you add it up, that’s more than a month a year on a phone. While the time might be worthwhile, what would you do if you had an extra month’s worth of time every year?
- The average American checks their phone about 344 times per day. There might be studies that provide a slightly different number, but the end result of all polls and studies is the same: Americans check their smartphones nearly constantly, and far more often than they might realize. And given that a similar study made the year prior said that people checked their phones 262 times a day, there is a clear increase.
- Checking the phone is part of most people’s morning ritual (whether they mean it or not). About 71 percent of Americans check their smartphone right after waking up.
- About 45 percent of Americans say that their phone is their most valuable possession. While phones are expensive, so are cars. There is clearly an attachment that the average American has to their phone.
- More concerningly, 26 percent of Americans say they have put themselves in danger to protect or avoid losing their phone. Given how easily a phone can be replaced these days, this is rather concerning.
- People are always looking for the next new thing or new app. And there are plenty of apps to go around. As a result of this, on average people install an average of 40 apps installed on their phones at any given point.
All of this points to a trend that Americans are getting increasingly comfortable with and reliant on smartphones. It could also point to more signs of addiction (but more on that later). If you’re interested, we also encourage you to look more deeply into worldwide trends, which provide an even greater picture.
A Uniquely American Smartphone Environment
Smartphones exist all over the world at this point, and the penetration rate of smartphones isn’t all that special in America. There are some countries where practically every man, woman, and child has a smartphone. With that in mind, is there anything special about American usage habits that we should pay attention to?
Smartphones and gaming go together like practically nothing else, with smartphones being responsible for a ton of the total gaming revenue that comes in across the globe. Gaming is a key component of smartphone usage today, both in the United States and beyond. Here are a few facts to clarify:
- While you might think gaming is for teenagers, overall it is not. The average age of a gamer overall is 35 in the United States. Generally, only 8 percent of mobile gamers are teenagers.
- Women also generally dominate the mobile games space. About 63 percent of mobile gamers are women, and they are more likely to pay more for mobile gaming.
- There are 203 million people who play mobile games in the United States, and the adoption rate is growing.
- Naturally, Americans aren’t the only ones playing games on their phones, and overall many Asian countries completely have the United States overshadowed when it comes to the number of players or the percentage of their population playing games. Still, there is a lot of money coming from the United States, and the U.S. is one of the countries with the most game developers for mobile platforms.
- The mobile gaming market value in the United States is about $25.2 billion.
Money and eCommerce
As you might notice with a lot of things, Americans will spend more money on their smartphones than people in most other countries. Part of this is that on average Americans have more money to spend. Yet what can we learn overall about money management and eCommerce on phones today?
- Money management and tracking have also become more common on smartphones. Banking apps are commonplace, as are various forms of payment. Americans in particular are starting to get used to the idea, despite a few countries working with digital wallets for years now.
- Going back to 2018, there were more than 500 billion online sales in the United States alone.
- Worldwide, the total eCommerce revenue equals trillions of dollars, the exact amount varying depending on what you would consider eCommerce.
- It is estimated that mobile retail eCommerce sales reached 360 billion dollars in 2021 and will reach 431 billion in 2022 in the United States.
Privacy and protection
Compared to many other Western countries, cell phone usage can be more of a potential intrusion of privacy in the United States. Many European countries have specific protections for consumers that might at times limit usage but also prevent certain data-collection practices that are invasive.
- While mobile devices are in general safer than an unprotected laptop, they are still susceptible to many of the tricks and traps cybercriminals use to get people’s data. They can still use public networks and information can still be sent to scammers on them. This is true in the United States and across the world.
- One report states that 40 percent of mobile devices are vulnerable to cyberattacks.
- There is currently a debate on whether law enforcement officials can access your smartphone and its data and the limits on doing so in the United States. While the debate and the current stances can go on for a whole article on their own, we do encourage you to look more into the issue yourself when you get an opportunity.
- With smartphone operating systems at least, the goal seems to give you more control over which apps have access and to which data. You can see this already in how app permissions have been implemented on Android devices.
Something very interesting when looking at the smartphone market in the United States is just how many people own an iPhone. Apple doesn’t have nearly this much dominance when it comes to other sectors of technology (how many people you know have an Apple desktop computer?) Yet when it comes to smartphones, Apple has the market on lock.
Will this change anytime soon? It is hard to say. People are used to the OS by this point, though pricing could play a key role. And if Apple takes too large a risk or if there is an Android phone that is truly a must-have, one upgrade is all it takes for people to switch brands.
Content and Entertainment
People love to stream video on their smartphones, whether they are on the bus, in bed, or just on the couch and don't feel like turning on the TV. And while we don’t have too much United States-specific information here, we can give you a clue about what people are watching and doing on their phones:
- About 70 percent of all media time is spent on smartphones. People are simply not as interested in their TVs as they used to be, and it’s extremely easy to load up whatever you want on a smartphone at a moment’s notice.
- More than 70 percent of YouTube traffic is from mobile, echoing the previous facts. YouTube often seems to be made for mobile, often not requiring the enhanced details that a finely produced film would. It is partially a social network, after all.
- Speaking of social media and social networks, the vast majority of interactions on social media happen on mobile. Some social media networks only exist or are fully functional on mobile devices.
- In general, smartphones are responsible for about 54 percent of online traffic, a number that has only grown over the years.
On Smartphone Addiction
Smartphone addiction is not necessarily a controversial topic, but the language we use to describe the problem can be a little difficult. You might find that there is someone in your life that is practically addicted to their smartphones, and there are plenty of people who might be dependent on them and not even know it. Studies differ on the exact amount, but one poll says that. If we add teenagers to the mix, we might see an even higher rate of smartphone addiction.
Though there is little about the devices themselves that are addicting or even engaging. Or rather they wouldn’t be all that different from basic cell phones or landlines, and few people find a psychological need to talk on the phone all day. It really comes from the apps, which are often designed to be addicting or at least keep your attention. Therefore, one might be more tempted to call it gaming addiction, a social media addiction, or an addiction-related
Smartphone addiction might seem a little silly compared to drug and alcohol abuse and other physical addictions, but it can ruin or damage lives nonetheless. People who have smartphone addiction are more likely to be distracted drivers, and someone’s health can suffer from neglect. It also leads to a more sedentary lifestyle in most cases. This in turn leads to many different health problems which you should be concerned about.
Signs of Smartphone Addiction
If you or someone you know exhibit several to many of the following behaviors, they might be suffering from smartphone addiction:
- A desire to use a smartphone more and more often to achieve the same level of satisfaction.
- Regular failed attempts to reduce smartphone usage.
- A loss of one’s sense of time when using a smartphone.
- Putting their job or relationships at risk to use the smartphone more.
- Anger, depression, tension, restlessness, or other negative feelings when a smartphone is not available.
- The use of a smartphone as a primary coping mechanism.
There are other behaviors, and wondering if you’re addicted or feeling a need to come back are also causes for concerns. Just be sure to notice your own usage at times and take a break every once in a while. A little time outdoors and talking to real people can relieve stress better than your smartphone ever could.
Ways to Help with Smartphone Addiction
We aren’t medical professionals, but we would like to share some common ways people fight smartphone addiction or help relieve the dependence on their smartphones:
- Above all else, seek professional help if you feel you need it, or even if you don’t. Any type of dependency is tough to get away from on your own, and it might be a long-time struggle. You are eventually going to need support.
- Try your hardest to take an extended break from your phone, ideally for at least one week. That will give you some time to reset and remember how much time you’d have without being on your phone all day.
- You probably do need to have texting and calling available to get through your daily life and communicate with others. If so, you might want to downgrade to a basic flip phone or the equivalent, so you can’t install more addictive apps.
- Some apps can help you gain a bit of control back. Some will give you pause before you open your smartphone needlessly. Others will instead allow you to effectively lock you out of your phone for a while when you need to focus. Look into what is available and what might be best for your needs.
- Keep your phone out of reach unless you are using it. Removing it from your immediate space can help, and if someone calls you, you will still be able to reach it in time. More importantly, keep it out of reach or even away from the bedroom when you go to bed. You’ll be far less likely to have it keep you up and sleep better.
- Take a look at your settings and see what you can adjust. You may want to cut out many of the notifications that you get. You can turn your phone to black-and-white mode to make it less interesting. Even keeping the more addictive apps off your home screen can help. Set up an environment that doesn’t enable addiction, and you’ll be able to live a healthier life for it.
The Future of Smartphone Usage
In truth, it will be extremely difficult to determine exactly where cell phone habits are going. Will there be a future where people are constantly connected to their phones even more, perhaps via something like a more advanced smartwatch or smart glasses? On that note, will smartphones be supplanted entirely by some other technology? It’s hard to say for certain, and nothing huge is currently around the bend.
While we cannot parse out everything to come in next year and beyond, we can likely see the following:
- People may or may not use smartphones more overall, but companies will be increasingly seeking out attention from their users. Social network apps will try to keep people using them for longer, and there will be additional features and tools to maximize engagement. As much as you may not want to believe it, these apps and tools have not been perfected yet, and professionals and psychologists are still putting in work to this end.
- People will use their smartphones more as they find more use cases for them. Alternatively, they’ll use them more as the existing use cases for them get perfected or become preferred. We saw this a lot with the pandemic (think of all of the food delivery apps that saw a spike in usage). While a crisis isn’t always necessary to drive change, enough of an impetus could see people on their phones more or for more reasons.
- Speaking of use cases, we are likely going to see a lot more augmented reality features and more advanced technology related to it. This will increase the use-cases mentioned above. It may also make phones even more addictive than they already are. After all, why look at the real world when looking through your phone can make things so much more interesting?
- As smartphone usage goes up and connectivity increases, there’s another dark side to it: cybercrime and cybersecurity threats. Smartphones now have more payment information on them than the average device, and they’re used for many eCommerce purposes. Expect users to be more aware of security (if they aren’t already) and for developers to provide more security features to apps and operating systems. There will also be an increase in scam attempts using smartphones, so people should brush up on the common scams.
- The things that are uniquely American about smartphone usage might not be so uniquely American after some time. Cultural osmosis will show its effects more over time, and smartphones culture will soon become similar across the world due to the nature of the internet. The only difference might be greater workplace and home life differences, but smartphones themselves might still hold greater sway.
There are other things to look forward to, of course, but in general, they might be vague reminders of the status quo or things that are possible, yes, but extremely unlikely. Experts will also be likely to make other predictions, but there is academic disagreement on what the future holds in store for us. We encourage you to look more into the matter yourself if you are interested.
Smartphones have come to dominate many of our lives. And there is a trend toward this only being more the case as more people grow up with them, become reliant on them for work, and more. While we should be aware of the impact they have on our lives and mental health, we cannot ignore them. And while there are plenty of concerns to be had, there are a similar number of benefits. We hope you make smart decisions involving your smartphone in the future and encourage you to come back to this page as needed.