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Smartphone Addiction and What It Means for Wi-Fi

By Dennis Jones


It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a decade since the first iPhone hit the market. But if you ever doubted the pace in which technological change could transform societal habits, I’d like to turn your attention to the small cottage industry that has arisen in the last few years to measure the pervasiveness of smartphone addiction across a broad cross-section of mobile users.

Are you nomophobic?

The term nomophobia, short for “no mobile-phone phobia,” was introduced during a 2010 study undertaken by the U.K. Post Office, to give formal terminology to smartphone addiction. The study found that over half of mobile users in Britain became anxious when they didn’t have access to their mobile phones, either because they lost their phones, ran out of battery or credit, or had no network coverage. The study found that nomophobia was pervasive across sex: 58 percent of men and 47 percent of women were sufferers. And numbers in the U.S. were even worse.

Lately, newer research has shown that if not precisely addictive, the attachment most people feel towards their smartphones is more emotional than rational. These findings are absolute gold for designers and manufactures who can use the intelligence gathered to produce apps and smartphones that encourage further loyalty and dependence. It’s also not irrelevant to enterprise mobility strategists, who’ve seen these consumer devices overwhelm the enterprise.

What about Wi-Fi and smartphone addiction?

People only suffer from smartphone addiction to the extent that their devices are smart and provide immediate access to information, when and where people need it. In other words, smartphone addiction goes hand in hand with dependence on access technologies like Wi-Fi, and we have the data to prove it. On a weekly basis, the average mobile user will connect to eight public Wi-Fi hotspots; that is connectivity outside of the house and the work place. There’s even a significant sub-segment of hyper-power users who will connect to public Wi-Fi twenty or more times per week.

If the quantity of connections doesn’t impress you, maybe the desired pace of connections will. When they get to a new venue, mobile users want to be connected as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter if the venue is a business meeting, hotel, airport, train station, restaurant, or their friend’s home. When asked, half of all mobile users responded that they wanted to be connected to Wi-Fi on arrival at a hotel (50 percent), business meeting (more than 53 percent), or airport (48 percent).

Focusing on hotels alone, about three quarters of all mobile users said they want to be connected to Wi-Fi within ten minutes of arriving at a hotel. Moreover, controlling for cost and location, Wi-Fi is the most important factor when booking hotels.