Remember when we could function perfectly well without a smartphone? As smartphone ownership has rapidly increased, so too has the number of us who feel dependent on a mobile phone. Today there are almost seven million Australians carrying around a smartphone they say they couldn't live without.
Somehow we managed to travel, stay safe, leave work, make social plans and generally stop our lives from spiralling out of control without one. But for more and more Australians, smartphones aren't just a handy tool, they're now necessary for everyday living.
Roy Morgan Research data for the 12 months to March 2016 shows a majority of smartphone owners aged 14 and over need one to help them juggle work and personal life (63 per cent), for their personal security (59 per cent), or to help them co-ordinate their social lives (54 per cent).
Although not quite a majority viewpoint, 44 per cent of smartphone owners need the device when travelling overseas, and 41 per cent need to be contactable at all time for work. Over a third of smartphone owners (36 per cent) agree they need it to give them more control over their lives.
Half of Apple owners can't live if living is without their iPhones (50 per cent). Other handset owners are a bit less needy, including users of a Samsung (42 per cent), HTC (43 per cent), or LG (45 per cent) smartphone, while the least hooked are those with a Nokia (34 per cent), Sony (37 per cent) or Huawei (37 per cent).
"Even the earliest smartphone adopters were quick to forget how they ever survived without one," says Michele Levine, CEO at Roy Morgan Research. "The proportion of owners agreeing they 'can't live without it' has been fairly steady at just under half for the past five years — a rate around three times higher than among 'dumb phone' owners asked the same question."
Smartphones are so firmly mainstream that even 60 per cent of "technophobes" from Roy Morgan's "Technology Adoption" segments now own one. This means, of course, that handset makers have a much wider range of consumer segments to target, and more opportunities to find, define and own a position in the market.
"For example," Levine continues, "Huawei smartphone owners are among the least likely to say they can't live without it or need it. They are less likely to use many of the different smartphone services we monitor including taking photos, playing music and games, streaming videos, using GPS and Bluetooth functions, and downloading and using different apps."
Huawei owners are also the most likely handset owners to be using a pre-paid service (around twice as likely as average), they have lower data allowances, and are less label-conscious or trusting of well-known brands.
"This is a segment of 'Older Tech Explorers' and 'Technology Traditionalists' who may not be top-of-mind for other handset makers but are customers nonetheless — and a third of the population."