Smartphones Sometimes Help, Sometimes Hinder

Users feel productive and happy when they use a smartphone, a survey says, except when they don’t. About half of users report feelings of distraction and frustration.

When it comes to emotions people experience in the wake of mobile screen encounters, “productive” (79%) and “happy” (77%) lead the way, according to U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015, a survey from Pew Research.

But slightly more than half of smartphone owners (57%) reported feeling “distracted,” thanks to their phones, and 36% said their phones made them feel “frustrated.” Age plays a part in phone-fueled feelings: Younger smartphone owners tend to experience a wider range of these emotions compared with older users.

Smartphones are widely used for navigating numerous important life activities, from researching a health condition to accessing educational resources. Lower-income and “smartphone-dependent” users are especially likely to turn to their phones for navigating job and employment resources. Smartphones help users—especially younger users—navigate the world around them, from turn-by-turn driving directions to assistance with public transit.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) own a smartphone, up from 35% in the spring of 2011, and 19% of Americans rely to some degree on a smartphone to access online services and information, and to stay connected to the world around them—either because they lack broadband at home, or because they have few options for online access other than their cell phone. In fact, 7% of Americans own a smartphone but lack either traditional broadband service at home or easily available alternatives for going online other than their cell phones.

Other findings are:

  • Text messaging is universally the most popular smartphone feature. All age groups—18 to 29, 30 to 49 and 50+—rank it as a top use for phones (100%, 98% and 92%, respectively).
  • Those with relatively low income and educational attainment levels, younger adults, and non-whites are especially likely to be smartphone-dependent.
  • A majority of smartphone owners use their phones to follow along with breaking news, and to share and be informed about happenings in their local communities.
  • Fully 93% of smartphone owners ages 18 to 29 used their phone at least once to avoid being bored. Almost half (47%) of smartphone owners in that age group have used their phone to avoid interacting with people around them.