More than nine in 10 Americans own a cell phone, and of those, nearly seven in 10 compulsively check for messages … even when there’s nothing there.
As if that weren’t proof enough that Americans have a serious smartphone dependency, a new report from the analytics firm Flurry suggests that “smartphone addicts” — people who open apps 60 times or more a day — are growing at more than five times the rate of regular users. In fact, while Flurry reports that its regular users (people who open 16 apps a day or less) have increased 23 percent, to 784 million people, super-addicts have grown 123 percent — to 176 million.
Flurry gathered that data from the more than 1.3 billion devices it tracks for customers like Pinterest, Snapchat and Zynga.
Clearly, of course, “addicts” are still very much in the minority. But the rapid growth of these users, and their intriguing demographics, merits further study. Flurry finds women tend to be mobile addicts more frequently than men. Meanwhile, the age groups of addicted users aren’t quite what you’d expect: teens and young 20-somethings overindex, sure, but adults ages 25 to 34 tend not to be mobile addicts. Even more surprising? Middle-aged adults, parents especially, are likely to spend lots of time on their phones. (In many cases, that’s probably because parents’ phones get shared among multiple family members.)
Flurry is calling this a good sign for wearable tech — after all, the company argues, a phone that’s with you 24/7 is kind of a “de facto wearable,” anyway.
But the report is also a bad sign for more personal things: think sanity, contemplation and social relationships. While researchers haven’t found evidence for actual smartphone addiction, in the medical sense of the term, they have found plenty to indicate that it can cause dysfunction — something we all experience whenever an acquaintance checks his e-mail or plays a round of Internet chess mid-conversation. Intoned Nicholas Carr in his 2010 book “The Shallows”:
The smartphone, more than any other gadget, steals from us the opportunity to maintain our attention, to engage in contemplation and reflection, or even to be alone with our thoughts.
So if you’re reading this on a smartphone … you might want to put it down.