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Presented by Arbitron Inc. and Jacobs Media, this study is extremely important to the development and evolution of marketing in the coming years. Smartphones aren’t just changing the rules — they’re switching the game.

Goin’ Mobile: The Impace of Smartphones on American Life
Presented by Arbitron Inc. and Jacobs Media

Mobile has emerged as the new mass distribution medium, with more than four billion mobile devices worldwide—topping televisions, radios, and personal computers. This study is a result of Arbitron’s interest in assessing how consumers perceive and use smartphones and attendant technologies.

smartphone face man
• The smartphone has blossomed into a piece of technology that transcends definition. Despite their origins as “phones,” smartphones have become an essential piece of technology for a growing
number of consumers.

• Smartphones have permeated all aspects of American life. They have a significant impact on productivity, personal and professional accessibility and human engagement and interactivity. Smartphones are redefining careers, the family unit and social intercourse.

• There were very few differences in the overall use of and attitude toward smartphones based on age, gender, geography or ethnicity. The key distinctions appear to be based more on 1) the type of device owned and 2) the specific job or lifestyle of the respondent.

• There do appear to be clear differences in the impact and use of a smartphone based on the type of phone that’s used. BlackBerry® owners tended to concentrate their usage on talking, texting and e-mailing. On the other hand, iPhone® and Android™ owners treated their smartphones in a customized, chameleon-like way. They were more able to configure these devices by accessing apps that fit their needs and desires, whether for social, business, personal or recreational needs.

• Smartphones have moved from the “next big thing” to the “most essential thing.” While typically regarded as “cool” or “fun,” these devices have become a part of most consumers’ personal communications equipment, and their utility and features are assumed. Most consumers believe that smartphones have nearly unlimited uses.

• Smartphones are rewriting the rules of social interplay, often breaking down barriers of what is considered to be acceptable public behavior. There are numerous complaints about rude drivers using mobile devices, as well as disdain for people sharing their most intimate details while talking on the phone in public. A devout church-goer felt compelled to text message while in church and even rationalized doing so in her interview. A student used her smartphone while in class and devised various ways of hiding its use. Whether it is acceptable to use these devices in certain situations or not, respondents often find ways to conceal or justify their use. While several respondents acknowledged that using mobile devices in certain situations is “wrong,” the need to be in touch can overwhelm these social norms.

• Apps are a key to the popularity and ubiquity of smartphones. We observed respondents who used apps to manage dietary needs or financial affairs and entertain their children while in the car or while the child was undergoing medical treatment.

• Smartphones have become completely invasive in the lives of most respondents. It is the one piece of technology that is with them during nearly all of their waking hours and is always “on.”

• Constant accessibility translates to greater efficiency and more comfort, but also increased stress. Many reported that having a smartphone for business has made them more productive because they could now multitask with ease. On the other hand, this study contains stories about how clients and bosses now expect a greater degree of responsiveness in the form of returned e-mail and/or text messages (something that we found to now be acceptable in business) on an immediate basis.

• Smartphone apps have been a “game changer” in the workplace. Many respondents share a strong conviction that these devices enhance their productivity and the quality of their business endeavors.

• Smartphone use while driving is universally thought to be dangerous, yet the activity continues. There is an obvious disconnect between rational thought (“I know I shouldn’t text while driving”), local laws (“I can get a ticket and a fine”) and the emotional, even addictive, need to stay connected. The lure of accessibility, speed and constant connectivity is simply too powerful for many, so they continue to engage in this activity despite the consequences.

• Smartphones may be altering the use of other devices. Most respondents increasingly use their smartphones for an increased array of functions and, as a result, there appears to be a drop-off in the use of other devices. Laptop and desktop computers, GPS units, cameras and camcorders and car radios seem to be used less frequently among smartphone owners.

• Smartphones make it easier to use social media tools like Facebook® and Twitter. While most respondents were utilizing these networking sites before owning a smartphone, their activity has accelerated with the ability to post, update and tweet while on the go.

• Smartphone media usage is increasing, but is still in the formative stages for many respondents. The entertainment application that was most ubiquitous was Internet radio station Pandora®. While many utilized this service on their desktops and laptops, the ability to access Pandora on their smartphone was a game-changer. Along with the Facebook application, Pandora was the most frequently used application.

• The smartphone is the ultimate time-filler and time-killer. While in line at the grocery store, waiting in a doctor’s office, eating, waiting at a stop light, needing a break from work and even while spending time in a restroom, the smartphone has emerged as the “go to” device.

• Finally, smartphones are addictive. While most admit it, there is a strong sense throughout these interviews that smartphones aren’t just about utility and recreation. There was often a compulsive quality about their omnipresence that many respondents were aware of.

Moving forward, expected improvements in technical connectivity, data storage and capacity and application development will accelerate everything we observed in this study. We expect that consumers will become more addicted to their smartphones and, as prices for handsets and data plans moderate and access to more consumers improves, larger and larger segments of the population will experience what we observed in Goin’ Mobile.

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