Australia has one of the highest global smartphone penetration levels, and while this is expected to flatten in the next 12 months, our love affair with our phones won’t be slowing down anytime soon.

Australia’s smartphone penetration level sits at 84% — the fourth largest market globally after Norway (91%), South Korea (89%), and the Netherlands (87%), the 2016 Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey revealed. However, the report says this growth rate will plateau over the next 12 months as phone owners are forced to covert from feature phones to smartphone following the 2G shutdown by each of Australia’s major mobile networks.

Another trend the survey found was that 27% of Australians don’t make a voice call in a week, stating they prefer to text message.

As a result of a cultural reliance on mobile devices, the survey exposes some predictable, and not-so-predictable, habits.

The good

Let’s get physical. Our obsession with our phones has had a domino effect on how we keep track of our health. Australians are leading with the adoption of fitness bands at 18% uptake – double the global average, and this is expected to exceed 25% over the next few years, with three quarters of respondents to the survey indicating they still want to purchase one.

We want more data. It’s undeniable that our smartphones have transformed into mini computers, which we use to not only keep in touch with people through messaging, emails, social media, video calls, but also to catch up with what’s happening online by streaming music and videos. We do this so often that 4G subscribers use about twice the amount of data as 3G subscribers. Although, this level of consumption by 4G subscribers wouldn’t be possible without the combination of 4G compatible smartphone devices and applications that rely heavily on data to deliver relevant content. To feed this love for data, one in five consider “unlimited data” a feature they would consider changing operators for. The same group also admit they go over their data limit plan.

“Experience is showing us that the availability of ever increasing mobile broadband speeds is creating a wider range of possible options for the broadband consumer,” said Jeremy Drumm, Deloitte TMT Partner to Red Wire. “But for telcos, the message is that if the network operators build it, consumers will come, smartphone in hand… depending on their data allowance.”

“Telcos already appreciate that consumer expectations are increasing, and specifically as it relates to their data allowances and the value of plans.

“Data allowances and price are two of the highest rated reasons why consumers look to change their plan and is a key driver to churn.”

The bad

Nomophobia, a term originally coined by the UK Post Office in 2010 following a study into smartphone usage, refers to people who suffer from “no mo(bile) phone phobia”. This is when you feel anxious about not being able use your phone for some reason whether it’s because you’re low on battery or there’s minimal signal.

“Roy Morgan research shows that Vodafone customers who are 14 years old and above have an increasingly dependent relationship with their mobile phones. Over the years, our mobile phones have been providing more than just connectivity and now they sit at the core of our daily life. 80% of our customers reported that they use their mobile more than their home phone, and 45% indicated that they cannot live without a mobile phone,” said Elif Ketencioglu, Vodafone Corporate Strategy Manager.

“Perhaps another interesting insight from this research is the role of mobile phones in helping with our busy lives: 63% claimed that they need a mobile phone to juggle work and personal life, and 57% said that they see their phones as a tool to manager time better. At Vodafone, we use mobile technology to empower our customers so that they can utilise their time to their best, and it is great to see that our network is enabling our customers to do things more efficiently.”

Some concerning statistics that point to some potential sufferers of nomophobia include:

  • 11% of Australians check their mobile phones immediately when they wake up
  • 12% do the same before they go to bed, this is despite recommendations for people to switch off their phones at least an hour before bed – only 25% of people are practicing this advice
  • 30% of Australians check their mobile phone in the middle of the night, of that, 70% respond, but this doesn’t include checking the time. This is most common among 18-24 year olds who are checking instant message and social media notifications
  • 4% of Australians read work emails in the middle of the night and about half respond

The ugly

Pay attention.

Disturbingly, one in 10 of us are using our smartphones when we’re crossing the road or driving, Deloitte says.

Dating dilemmas. The study also showed the excessive use of our smartphones is a sore point in our relationships, as one in five Australians admit to arguing with their partner at least monthly over their smartphone usage. These arguments are most common among 25-34 year olds. Deloitte predicts that formal and informal rules between couples are likely to merge as a result of this behaviour.

Staying smart online. What’s even more concerning is that 54% of Australians are willing to share their information, mainly because they’re unaware every time they surf the web they’re leaving a data trail behind, especially when they hover over advertisements or interact on social media. By 2020, online security is expected to become more complicated as it’s predicted each user will have as many as 200 online accounts that they’ll need to authenticate to gain access.

“We are becoming more comfortable with our fingerprint being used for authentication. Biometrics and smartphone adoption may provide us with an alternative to having to remember, or even write down, the multitude of passwords required by our growing online accounts,” said Mr Drumm.

“The secure enclave on smartphones enables third parties such as banks and online retailers to use the fingerprint technology on our phones to create one touch logons and payment services streamlining the banking and retail experience, and has the potential to overcome many of the challenges with mobile commerce.”

Check into rehab. Our growing addiction to our smartphones are so serious, groups have been established to help people break their addictions and adopt healthier smartphone usage behaviours.

“Australians’ mobile phone addiction is worsening, and alarmingly it is increasingly affecting sleep, wellbeing and relationships,” said Mr Drumm. “Our tips are to keep technology out of the bedroom or meeting room, and take advantage of apps that automatically block activity.”

“Guidance on phone usage in the cinema and at the theatre is already commonplace: but many previously ‘phone-free’ zones have been invaded by increasing rings, pings, tweets, and flashes – be that on the ferry, at a restaurant, on the plane, or is the classroom. Unfortunately, I’m not sure guidance and rules will solve all these phone invasions but rather can only trust that common sense will prevail and awkward mobile moments, like the current food selfie craze, eventually pass us by…one can only hope!”

  • Australia’s smartphone penetration level sits at 84%
  • Our obsession with our phones has had a domino effect on how we keep track of our health
  • 11% of Australians check their mobile phones immediately when they wake up
  • Disturbingly, one in 10 of us are using our smartphones when we’re crossing the road or driving,

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Aimee Chanthadavong

Content Producer

Aimee Chanthadavong,
Content Producer

As Content Producer of RedWire, Aimee is a passionate storyteller about people, technology, and anything else that requires her to use a bit of journalistic detective work.