The Smartphone: Quite Possibly Your Best Friend’s BFF

By: Ryan Raghunandan

Have you seen these smartphones before? Odds are, yes you have.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Cook


They are starting to pop up everywhere.  They are taking over big cities and small towns.  Aliens? Nope.  Locusts? No.  Justin Bieber fans?  Good guess, but no. Give up?  It’s your friendly neighbourhood smartphone.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past several years, you know that smartphones are becoming increasingly prevalent in Canada.  According to a January 2012 Ipsos Reid Mobilology study, 34% of Canadians now own a Smartphone; with BlackBerry and Apple handsets remaining the most popular brands (Barbour / Ipsos Reid, 2012)[i].

I decided to undertake a quick study to find out how and where my family and friends were using their smartphones.  I will be quoting statistics from my study throughout the rest of this blog, unless otherwise indicated.


The Methodology:


My survey was posted online on Google Docs from Saturday, July 14 – Tuesday, July 17, 2012.  E-mail invitations were sent to friends and family members.  Friends and family members were also asked to send the survey out to their friends, so it is possible that there were some referral survey respondents.

As a result of using a convenience sample* of family and friends as survey respondents, the results of my survey cannot be generalized to the entire population.

*A sample consists of the people who actually filled out the survey



N = 41 (the survey was filled out by 41 people)

Gender breakdown of respondents: 51% Female, 49% Male

Age breakdown of respondents:

16-24 years old: 2%

25-34 years old: 90%

35+ years old: 7%


Summary of Results:


From my study, here are the top uses based on the data I collected:



 Consumer Smartphone Uses:



Texting topped the list in terms of activity amongst smartphone users in my study.  A remarkable 98% of respondents use their smartphones for texting.  That number was followed closely by talking (93% of respondents), e-mailing (88%) and taking pictures (80%).

Following behind in the next group, were smartphone activities such as browsing websites (73% of respondents indicated this use), instant messaging (63%), Facebook (63%), navigation and maps (63%), and general use of apps (61%).


Where Consumers Use Smartphones:



The top settings for smartphone use were at home (100% of respondents), work (95%) and the mall (85%).  This was followed by use while taking public transit (71%), at a restaurant (66%), as a passenger in a private vehicle (61%) and at a bar /club /lounge (54%).

Important Note: For the non-researchers out there, recall that 90% of the survey respondents were between the ages of 25-34.  As a result of this fact, there were a very low percentage of people who reported using their smartphone device at school. Be cautioned that most of the people who took this survey were probably finished school.  I would hypothesize (taking an educated guess) that at least 80% of smartphone users would use their phones at school, if they were attending school on a daily basis.  This is a prime example of how one cannot take the findings from a convenience sample of 41 friends and family members and generalize to the entire population.

Before getting to the analysis I figured it would be easier if I combined the data that was gathered above with the results from an informal focus group (a group discussion that is guided by a moderator) of six friends.  One of the main objectives was to find out why smartphone owners use instant messaging, Facebook and texting so prevalently.


Focus Group (Qualitative Study): Key Findings


  • Respondents believed that texting, talking, e-mailing, taking pictures and going on Facebook were among the top uses of smartphones because they enabled people to be efficient, stay in touch, communicate and socialize.
  • Texting was regarded as being extremely efficient because it allowed consumers to carry out multiple conversations, as opposed to just one conversation while placing a voice call.
  • Facebook was used mostly to socialize, update and inform others of what was currently going on in the respondents’ respective lives.
  • Respondents stated that they texted, used the internet and made purchases on their smartphones at the mall.  Texting was used to continue socializing; while the internet was used to check sales and comparison shop.
  • In one case, a respondent used their iPhone to pay for goods at Starbucks. She stated that strangers were approaching her and asking what she “just did with her phone at the counter”.
  • Hypothetical situation: If a smartphone was a person, what words would respondents use to describe it?  Smart, efficient, entertaining, moody, dependable and as one respondent said “a friend that’s always there for you.”.
  • The focus group generally agreed that owning a smartphone had made their lives more efficient while increasing convenience.
  • Whether it allowed them to clear out their e-mail inbox on the way home (and thus freeing up more leisure time), or facilitating the co-ordination and planning of events, the smartphone was “making things go (happen) faster.”.


Overall Analysis and Commentary on Smartphone Use


Smartphones provide consumers with the ability to communicate with friends, family or business associates.  Based on the responses in my study, consumers  want to communicate and stay connected to each other on a daily basis.  In the words of one focus group respondent, a smartphone is like a “friend that is always there for you.”.  It is this level of emotional attachment that phone manufacturers and telecommunication companies aspire to achieve with the mass market.

The top three smartphone uses are texting (100%), talking (93%), e-mailing (88%).  These are all viewed as forms of basic communication, especially for those 35 and under.  Numerous texts sent in a short period of time can quickly transform simple texting into a conversation-like scenario.  Do you text a significant other or friend 30 times a day to find out how they are doing?  As one focus group respondent articulated, “texting throughout the day makes me feel like I’m right with the person I’m texting, all day.”

Phone manufacturers have already noticed the above and have taken texting one step further.  Features such as Blackberry’s BBM instant messaging service allow consumers to essentially text message in real-time.  Think of it as MSN for the smartphone.

Taking pictures (80% of survey respondents), browsing websites (73%), instant messaging (63%), Facebook (63%) and navigation uses (63%) were next on the list of top smartphone uses.  These uses seem to go hand in hand with consumers desiring to stay connected.  Consumers like to share their pictures and, by nature, humans like to feel loved and/or a part of group or activity.

Suppose you woke up a little foggy after a night of partying.  Have no fear, because Facebook is here.  There could easily be hundreds of pictures posted from the party the previous night on Facebook by noon the next day.  Socially, Facebook lets consumers collaborate, plan and share all the activities they have been involved with.  Instant messaging can help facilitate the creation of these plans, in real time, so there is no time delay.  Consumers can pull out their phones as they are en route to a destination and message their friends that they are minutes away or even that they are “walking towards the Sears entrance” at the mall.

Browsing websites on a smartphone is a prime example of staying connected to the world around us.  Whether it’s looking up the latest news headlines, sports scores, celebrity gossip or the latest sales at a particular store, consumers are trying to stay current and up-to-date during their daily routine.

From a marketer’s perspective, what does the above mean when it comes to advertising?


The Future of Smartphone Advertisements?


You may not have noticed, but it has been a long time since dropped calls or signal quality were the main selling points in mobile phone advertisements.  The technology has come so far, almost everyone takes call quality as a given.  When you think of it, the main feature of a phone is to talk, however smartphones have changed that way of thinking.

Presently, I have noticed that the focus on smartphone advertisements centers on people connecting, sharing and interacting with one another.  Advertisements depict people multi-tasking, capturing special moments, sharing with friends and family, and increasing the convenience in their lives.

Take a look at a current  commercial for the Samsung Galaxy S III here.  Have you finished watching that 30 second commercial?  Good.  Let’s see, there were wedding photos being taken, a wedding proposal video at an airport, and a father reading a short story (on his smartphone) to help put his child to sleep.  That smartphone is everywhere.  Those wedding photos are definitely going to be shared with friends and family.  The Galaxy S III is even doing the communicating (proposing) on behalf of the boyfriend in the 2nd scene.  Reading a bedtime story on the smartphone is now more convenient with the Galaxy S III since no physical book is needed, it is all on the phone.  Of course, this is just one commercial but if you start paying closer attention to smartphone commercials, perhaps you will see a trend too.


Smartphone Social Etiquette: Dinner and Movie


The survey revealed that 66% of respondents are using their phones while they are at a restaurant, and 27% of people are ignoring the “silence is golden” rule at the movies by using their smartphone.  What was the focus group’s reaction towards these findings?  It turns out that use of smartphones at the lunch or dinner table was not a huge deal.  In fact, respondents stated that it’s “common” and it’s “natural to want to be on the phone”.  Respondent also said they would text or look at the time on their phones, rather than carry out a voice conversation on their phone at the table.

However, the focus group was split when it came to smartphone use in the movies, with the biggest grievances being the glare from the illuminated screen and the noise from people talking.

What about one-on-one conversations?  Twice now, I have witnessed two different sets of co-workers taking their break together, sitting at the same table, yet they are not saying a word or looking at each other.  What are they doing?  Take a guess.  Correct, they are texting away on their smartphone.  It gets trickier when you’re in a group of four people engaged in a good, old-fashioned conversation, and one person gets up to use the bathroom.  What do you do when the other two people remaining besides yourself use the bathroom break as a cue to check their text messages or e-mails?

Public transit is another setting where social etiquette dilemmas may arise.  Have you been on the train or bus and someone sitting a few rows down is speaking so loudly that you know they will be spending their evening watching the Oprah Network and eating a tub of ice cream? It can be annoying.


Final Thoughts from the Readers:


  • So is there a new social etiquette? What do you think of the above situations?
  • In addition, what do you think about my survey results? Are there any surprises?
  • Has owning a smartphone affected your life?



[i]Barbour, Mary Beth and Ipsos Reid (2012, April 19). Latest Wave of Ipsos Study Reveals Mobile Device Brands Canadian Consumers are Considering in 2012. Retrieved July 22, 2012, from Ipsos Reid:


Author: illuminatedinsights

Learning about the Social Media Industry to gain an understanding of where the world is already headed.

13 thoughts on “The Smartphone: Quite Possibly Your Best Friend’s BFF”

  1. Excellent post and review! I have noticed a shift in short years with the difference on the public transit. More people are using their phones during their commutes and less people taking naps or reading the newspaper or book. And there’s always someone who has to ruin an hour long train ride silence by talking (loudly) on their phone. Talk about annoying!

    I do think it’s rude for people to take out their phone during a dinner or a conversation with a friend and take a phone call/start texting, I guess the person they’re with aren’t that important or interesting.

    Looking forward to reading more entries.


  2. I think the shift towards texting has completely altered the way we socialize (or lack thereof). I`m mostly thinking of the children (which wu-tang is for). It`s horrible that the babies born into our world of technology may never develop any real social skills…only evolved freaky looking double-jointed thumbs.

    I like that social conventions are changing as well. For instance, it used to be seen as rude or inappropriate to use your phone infront of someone else, especially if it is just two of you. Another example might be that texting has become a legitimate means of communicating even delicate or important information. Someone might send their girlfriend or boyfriend a text saying they are breaking up. I usually don`t like social conventions so yay texting!


  3. Great read! I’m reading this from my iPhone, at home, while texting, checking emails, and posting my comments. Looks like the survey results are inline! Smart phones enable us to multi task and stay connected. I agree with the fact that they allow us to work in parallel on many things thus freeing up more time for leisure or relaxation. The funny thing is – our smart phones have become such a major attachment in some of our lives that the games or music or video we seek to relax are even accessed from our phones. We have become slaves to this technology and to each is own if that is in a good way or bad. I just came back from traveling abroad. My funniest memory is all of the people in the airport looking for power outlets or sitting on the floor in random corners or hallways charging their phones. And that includes me!


  4. I like how you added in the part about social etiquette. I have to admit, I find myself checking my phone (more for texting purposes) when I am out for dinner, and I have to stop and correct myself because it is rude to the person you are with. I get annoyed when someone else is doing it to me.


  5. A smartphone hasn’t affected my life (yet)! I have two months left in my contract and have to decide what phone to get. Reading this article has ME written all over it-I do send and receive a good 80 texts and if I did have a data plan, I would be on the internet all the time! I like the convenience of all the apps the phone has…especially for a person who gets lost and needs to figure out directions fast.


  6. This is all well and good, but what I want to know is RIM going out of business and should I replace my Blackberry with an iPhone 4S? Does it count as ‘texting’ or ‘voice’ if I ask Siri to send a message to somebody? Overall, I felt confused after reading your post.


    1. Hi Fliz, thank you for taking the time to read the blog. I’m sorry but I can’t answer your question. Perhaps sites such as and can aid you with your decision making.

      I didn’t create this post to try and sway people one way or the other with regards to brand preference. I can understand your confused feeling, but I believe what you are looking for and I am providing with this post are two different things. Good luck.


  7. I wonder what the results would have been like if you had asked how many people use their smartphones while driving…hope it wouldn’t have been too high, I see that far too often.

    I certainly think the smartphone is one possession without which I would have a hard time living.


  8. Great article and study! smart phones have changed everything, like the internet, tv, and automobile before them. I see them as the evolution of the personal computer. I wouldn’t worry about people not developing social skills…society is evolving like it always has and always will.

    p.s. all this from a guy who doesn’t have a smartphone yet because my sony ericsson flip keeps on ticking.


  9. I have yet to buy a smartphone and use my regular phone just for texting. The only real benefit of a smartphone for myself would be the real-time mapping for directions (which I think would be quite helpful, but I can always get a GPS for that). Otherwise, I sit in front of a computer all day and can check my emails on that.

    Also, in terms of etiquette at dinner with two people, i think its still rude to keep checking your phone for messages. If there is a large group of people it doesn’t bother me at all. I know I put my phone away all the time when I am at dinner, unless I am expecting an urgent message. Texting does help though when you are out at a lounge/bar and can’t hear the person on the other line, that’s where texting really comes in handy!

    Still on the fence and trying to figure out if i’ll get a data plan and buy a smartphone, guess we’ll see what the new iPhone 5 will have to offer!


  10. Very insightful. I wonder if there is a divergence of opinion on the social etiquette rules even with an age bracket. I personally find it rude to pull out a cell phone in the middle of a dinner at a restaurant, and I’m pretty sure many people older than me feel that way. At the same time, I’m positive people younger than me (even by just a couple of years) don’t see any thing wrong with this.


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