Three smartphone usage trends bringing generations together


Three smartphone usage trends bringing generations together

When you imagine who is using smartphones you might think it’s only the younger generations. Think again! Research from our Global mobile consumer survey (GMCS) and Digital democracy surveys reveals that although younger generations display more engagement with their mobile devices, no generation is immune to device obsession. In fact, 70 percent of all GMCS respondents reported owning mobile devices. While older generations might not be making mobile payments (mPayments) or streaming movies, they most likely own and are making good use of their devices.

As part of our Connected consumer experience article series, we take a closer look at three generational mobile device usage trends about which marketers should be aware: device ownership, fear of missing out (FOMO), and digital distraction.

Device ownership

The rise in device obsession may be due in part to the continued increase in device ownership—with smartphone ownership jumping 12 percent over last year, and tablet ownership increasing by 13 percent in the same timeframe. In addition, interest in purchasing a device rebounded after intent to purchase figures fell across the board last year.

According to GMCS, most 18-24 year olds have access to smartphones, but surprisingly the 35-64 year olds answered similarly—an average of 25 percent have access to smartphones. Additionally, 41 percent of 25-34 year olds have access to tablets, higher than the other groups. Surprisingly, 36 percent of the 18-24 year olds and the 35-44 year olds reported having access to tablets.


Consumers can’t help but check their phones to send texts (31 percent), check email (24 percent), check social networks (13 percent), and check the weather (10 percent). In addition to checking phones more frequently during the day, 42 percent of all mobile consumers look at their phones within five minutes of waking up. For 18-24 year olds, that number is 60 percent.

This year, we surveyed consumers about phone habits just before bedtime, and as it turns out, consumers are slightly less likely to look at their phones just prior to going to sleep. Overall, 82 percent of consumers check their phones an hour before going to sleep, and between 3 percent and 10 percent fewer consumers check their phones within an hour before going to bed compared to within an hour of waking up. This is helpful for marketers to know when planning social and email campaigns.

Digital distraction

No generation is immune to distraction by device. In fact, according to our Digital democracy survey, Millennials and Gen Xers engage in multiple activities while watching TV—typically either surfing the Web, emailing, texting, or social networking. In past GMCSs, the youngest generation (18-24) manifested the heaviest mobile usage. In this year’s GMCS, however, we detected a shift with the 25-34 year old age group. It reported the heaviest amount of “mobile distraction,” especially while watching TV. This finding may indicate that behaviors of the previous 18-24 year olds, some of whom are now in the 25-34 year old age group, may be carrying their habits, while the new 18-24 year old age group may have differing usage profiles.

In order to deliver successful digital marketing campaigns, marketers should keep in mind the changing user habits while recognizing the digital distraction elements, and engage users on their mobile devices by executing campaigns during users’ peak hours.

We will continue to evaluate how engrained mobile devices are in our daily lives. In addition to providing connectivity, mobile devices are on the fast track to replace other necessities of life. For example, some early adopters are leaving their wallets at home and using their phones to make mPayments. We’ll explore more about this in our next blog on mPayments.

Published on March 14, 2016.


Craig Wigginton, Mike Curran, Ays Aytolu, Anisha Sharma, and Catherine Nasr, Global mobile consumer survey, US edition: Rise of the always-connected consumer, Deloitte Development LLC, 2015, accessed February 26, 2016.

Gerald Benson, Kevin Westcott, Paul Sallomi, and Craig Wigginton, Digital democracy survey, 9th edition: A multi-generational view of consumer technology, media, and telecom trends, Deloitte Development LLC, 2015, accessed February 26, 2016.

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