The saying goes that we are lost if we’re without our smartphones. While this may initially seem to ring true, the expected statistics of this with 16-24s would then seem unanimously in favour.
Voxburner research alongside Thinkhouse found that around 67% of 16-24s cannot live without their smartphone. This number still says a lot about the reliance on this portable technology, not much has been looked at why.
We asked our Voxburner Academy: “If you had no access to your phone for a week, how different would your day be? Would you have to make any big changes, or is it not a big issue at all?”
I use my phone all the time, so much that I have to charge it twice a day on average. Whether it's checking emails, Facebooking, accessing lecture materials or playing games, my phone is all I need to get about. I use an e-wallet so don't need cash usually but I do need my phone. I feel lost without it.
I know that even when I lose my phone for an hour, I feel like I’ve lost something integral to me. I would say it is a big distraction when it comes to work, and usually I have to hide it away when I need to concentrate, thus yes my day would be very different. However it is useful when needing to meet people for lectures, or to quickly check my emails when I don’t have my laptop.
My phone isn't that important to me. If it weren't for wifi I'd probably never use it at all. But if there was no internet for a week? I think I'd curl in a ball and cry, as I can access Facebook, talk to people, organise stuff, Skype, play games, do my work, etcetera.
I've currently lost my phone and feeling like I'm missing a part of me right now. Not sure how to get in contact with anyone and even the simplest things like checking the time are missing – I don't have a watch.
I regularly get emails through to my phone, and sometimes they can be urgent and necessary to read on-the-go. There are other devices that I have that can do this but they need wifi. I text a lot to arrange things, and I don't have access to a landline, so my mobile is hugely important for me to make calls.
The feedback given by Academy members shows it’s not so much of an epidemic as first thought. Some speak of their day being unaffected, as well as others who see it as losing a part of themselves. Smartphones have become less about voice calls and text messages, and more about internet access – which opens up to a world of services never before available in a handheld device so small.
Because the evolution of technology has made so many tasks available in the palm of our hands, young people have grown to utilise these opportunities to multi-task and make the most of their time. Time is a commodity for a generation growing up to more pressures. Take away a device that has access to friends, family, work emails and the vastness of knowledge, and of course there will be some apprehension.
The bigger fear comes from a phone being stolen, and the data it contains not being retrievable. This includes phone numbers, a history of texts, countless photos and videos over many months, and high scores on apps. There is a concern over security, and what is jeopardised once this relied-upon piece of technology is lost, even this is slowly becoming less of a drama. With cloud technology making backup seamless, photos and videos can be uploaded while connected to wifi. Phone numbers turn into a digital directory, accessible anywhere. As for the apps, full smartphone backups can take care of that.
While smartphone addiction has been recognised as a genuine medical condition –bringing with it the necessary addiction treatment in its worst cases – this is nothing new. The smartphone is the 21st century's freedom enabler for the youth of today. At an age where freedom and social standing are two of the most important things to young people, no wonder the Voxburner Academy feels lost without their phone.
The bigger picture in all this is to not mistake the new generation as completely dependent on technology. An easy assumption to make from the growing number of uses for these pocket-sized wonders is that young people NEED them, when in actuality, it’s just the most convenient – especially with the drop in price for a basic internet-ready smartphone.
The same reaction would come from those with broken first-generation iPods, and having to physically place a CD into a stereo. This tedious task only became tedious because of a newer technology simplifying the process.
Every generation is content with what they have until new technology shows us how something can be done better. The new generation doesn't need a smartphone to survive, but they do love how it makes their lives a bit better.
Things to take away
Increasingly smartphones are becoming more affordable and accessible to young people. This does not directly correlate to dependence. Without smartphones, young people will just go to the nearest laptop or desktop PC and do what they need there. If anything, smartphones have allowed young people to escape indoors to go do more and see more. Don’t discredit those who are tech-reliant as someone unwilling to go out into the world and interact.
Because this technology can be used to do everyday tasks – which nowadays does include social networks, browsing websites and playing apps – it’s a no-brainer that young people want to use them to make their lives easier. Brands wanting to be accessible to 16-24s need to recognise the power more and more young people are holding in their hands, and how easy it is to connect with services they need.
Smartphones are no longer technology for early adopters only. Young people can find their way around their devices, and are happy to try something new. Brands concerned about implementing something new should take concepts straight to the demographic – a small focus group with a working prototype, for example – to get a better and faster insight than just analysis. Chances are it will be embraced, and at such an early stage, gives a little more peace of mind.
Image credit: Andrew King