Australia Loves The Smartphone

Image: iStock

A decade since the Nokia N95 and the original iPhone launched in 2007, Australia's love affair with the smartphone has only gotten more hardcore. In 2017, fewer than one in 10 Australians doesn't have a smartphone, half of all 25-34 year olds use some kind of mobile wallet, and the standalone GPS is all but dead with 81 per cent of owners using their phones for directions.

These results come from Telstra's eighth annual Smartphone Index, which the country's largest telco has launched ahead of Friday's much-anticipated launch of the iPhone X. It's full of interesting numbers, but it paints a clear picture of a country that couldn't tear itself away from a phone screen if it tried. We especially love streaming video, as it turns out, and it's taking off fast -- 40 per cent of Telstra traffic comes from video versus 30 per cent two years ago, and that figure is projected to reach 75 per cent by 2022.

31 per cent of all the 2000-plus smartphone users surveyed by Telstra and Nielsen use tap and pay on their phones, and unsurprisingly millenials lead that category with 47 per cent using some kind of NFC banking app or Apple Pay. Similarly, 62 per cent of Aussies check in on some kind of social media on their phones, but 85 per cent of young Aussies aged 16-24.

Telstra's quick to claim its own plaudits, too -- its networks are, in its limited gigabit 4G rollout areas, 100 times faster than the original 3G network connection speeds. 98 per cent of all Telstra's mobile network activity is driven by data in 2017 versus 99 per cent voice in 2008, and data usage has jumped 180 times since 2008 from 2.3 petabytes to 420 petabyes this year. [Telstra]



    do we love it, or can we just not live without it?

    If there was a 4G dumb phone that I could install whatsapp and messenger on I'd be happy.

    Partly to @beatsbynelly's point, I think it's time smartphone is replaced. It's a jack-of-all trades device that pushed the limits of tech at the time to give us a lot of convenience. But technology and services have moved on and there are better interaction models now for a lot of the stuff we do. Innovation in mobile phones has been stalled for a while and there is a move away from apps generally and towards services.

    As consumers we are still in the mindset of needing a smartphone though, and unfortunately I think we'll need one of the big companies (e.g. Google, Apple) and something like the original iPhone launch to push us on to the next thing, but those companies are still making too much money from smartphones to bother moving on.

      @horsesauce What would you replace the smartphone with? What are these "better interaction models" you speak of?

      The best thing about a smartphone (IMO) is that it's a jack of all trades. It can used for all kinds of things, depending on your needs at any given time. It can be used as a camera, a personal organiser, a media player, a phone, a gaming platform and any number of other things.

      Any new form factor that doesn't have this level of utilisation is doomed to failure.

      Last edited 01/11/17 11:32 am

        Exactly why the move away from "smartphone" would make sense. A phone with extra accouterments is no longer the basis for the device. Why not move to making a connected personal assistant (or something) first and foremost, shifting the focus from the phone function which is maybe (generously) 10% of the actual daily use now.

          A smartphone is a phone in name only. As you said, most of the functions of a smartphone are not related to voice calls. But if we ignored the voice call part, what would we change about the form factor to make it better suited to our other needs?

          We have another electronic device that doesn't have a "focus" on voice calls, but otherwise has a similar scope of capabilities - we call that a tablet, and they look a lot like a large smartphone. Coincidence? Or is it just that a slate device with a large touchscreen is actually the ideal form factor for a jack-of-all-trades electronic device?

            A large touchscreen is a convenient form factor for a jack of all trades device. But I don't think it's a great form factor for any of those trades individually. I actually think a tablet, or convertible device, has more usability here, more closely mimicking things like books, newspapers, notepads, etc. and providing a more usable content delivery platform, but one that we don't need to carry with us at all times.

            I think we can do all these things better and keep the convenience, or most of the convenience, of a single device (which is the appeal of a jack-of-all trades device) - but it requires a much broader approach to the whole situation.

            We may still end up with some sort of jack-of-trades device, but I think if we strip it back to the necessities (moving non-essential stuff to services, AI and more communal devices like IoT), and re-think how we do those necessities, then the resulting device could be significantly different to a smartphone that we have today.

        I'll start by saying that what I envision is not a new single device to replace the smartphone, it's a combination of device(s) & services that I think would lead to a far better user experience while maintaining (or improving) the convenience we already have.

        A smartphone convenient definitely, but it doesn't do any of those things as well, from a human interaction standpoint at least, as the physical device it replaces. The biggest issue with the smartphone is that it's a portal into our digital & online world and it's all through a relatively lifeless (i.e. non-tactile), individual (i.e. private, or targeted) touchscreen. It's also driven heavily by active user input.

        What I think would be better is to bring the digital world into our physical world. Bring back tactility, openness & shared experience, in-person interactions, etc. We should also rely more heavily on AI behind the scenes to take away as many of the menial type tasks that we can, without any input from the user.

        This isn't a great forum to go into the details of such a plan, but that's my high level view.

        I'll also say that for the last month I've replaced my smartphone with a 4G 'smartwatch' that handles all the real-time stuff I care about, and I've pushed all other tasks (things including email, news, writing, etc.) off to my 2-in-1 device - which provides a better, though still not perfect, platform for that kind of thing. It's not my end goal, but for me it's been a great step towards it.

    How much of our "love" is because that's what phone shops stock or foist on customers.

    By way of an example: a year or two back, my father-in-law was talked into getting a S6 when he just wanted a replacement of his dumbphone (after Telstra's 2G service ceased). To this day, he only uses the stock dialer and message apps.

    I thought Microsoft were going in the right direction with their phone that converted to a desk top computer. It had some weak points, like it didn't eliminate a laptop. But it would be good if we had one device for everything.

    Personally, smartphones are up there as one of the worst social problems in our life. Go to a train station, walk down the street or basically anywhere and all people are doing is staring at their stupid smartphone with headphones in their ears, taking selfies or pictures of their food or whatever they are doing in their life and posting that crap to facebook.

    I am surprised anyone actually knows what is going on around them. Further to that pretty much everyone is addicted to the bloody things.

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