- 52% of smartphone owners check it a few times an hour or more
- Young Americans are the most frequent smartphone checkers
- Most Americans have smartphone by them all day, many all night
PRINCETON, N.J. -- About half of U.S. smartphone owners check their devices several times an hour or more frequently, including 11% who say they check it every few minutes and 41% who check it a few times an hour. Another 20% of Americans claim to check their phones about once an hour, leaving 28% who check them less frequently.
These data are based on a special Gallup Panel survey conducted among 15,747 U.S. adults who say they have a smartphone. The survey was conducted April 17-May 18 by Web and included a mail survey component for these questions. The Gallup Panel is a probability-based sample with members in all 50 states.
The frequency with which Americans check their smartphones essentially means that they must be keeping their smartphones by their sides during the day. The data bear that assumption out: 81% of smartphone users say they keep their phone near them "almost all the time during waking hours."
Americans' attachment to their smartphones is so strong that 63% report keeping it near them at night even while sleeping. Some of this may be simple convenience if the phone is checked last thing before going to sleep and first thing upon waking. It may also reflect that many Americans use the alarm clock feature on their smartphone to wake them up each morning.
Most Believe They Check Their Smartphones Less Often Than Others
A Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor is famous for his description of the mythical Minnesota town of Lake Wobegon as a place where all the children are above average. In a similar but reverse fashion, the majority of American smartphone owners perceive that their use of their own device is below average (a mathematical impossibility). Sixty-one percent of owners claim they look at or check their smartphone less often than people they know, including 30% who say they check it a lot less often. Most of the rest say their use is about average, with a scant 11% admitting that they use their phone more often than others.
Why Americans tend to perceive that they monitor their smartphone less often than others is not firmly established. It's possible that Americans either misperceive what others are doing, or that they feel it is a socially undesirable behavior and therefore want to believe that they aren't doing it as much as others. The data show that even among owners who say they check their phone every few minutes, only one-third believe this is above-average behavior, and about half claim that their minute-by-minute monitoring of their smartphone is about the same as others they know. This could reflect the fact that these highly frequent phone checkers are surrounded by family or colleagues who are similar to themselves and engaging in the same type of behavior.
Frequent Smartphone Checking Skews Young
Casual observation in everyday life would lead one to conclude that young people use their smartphone more often than those who are older. The data confirm this, and the differences are remarkable. More than seven in 10 young smartphone owners check their device a few times an hour or more often, including 22% who admit to checking it every few minutes. That contrasts with the 21% of smartphone owners who are aged 65 and older who check it a few times an hour or more, with a miniscule 3% of that older age group checking it every few minutes.
American smartphone owners with a high school education or less are the least likely to check their phones frequently, a finding that reflects the older skew of this group. There is little variation in smartphone checking among owners who have some college, college graduates, and those with postgraduate education. IPhone owners are slightly more likely to check their phone frequently than are Android owners.
Most American smartphone owners keep their phones near them all day, many even while they sleep, and the majority check their phone at least a few times within every hour. The ubiquitous presence of smartphones in Americans' lives is especially evident among younger Americans, one out of five of whom admits to checking their phone every few minutes.
All of the consequences of this brave new world in which individuals essentially stay in constant touch with the world through their handheld devices are certainly not known at this point, but are being studied with increasing frequency. Certainly the telephone and then radio and then television changed the way people relate to the world, and the smartphone, no doubt, is doing the same. The next report in this Gallup series will delve into the ways in which Americans relate to and think about their phones, including the key question of whether the public feels that the evolution of society into a smartphone-centric culture is a good thing or a bad thing.
Results are based on 15,747 members of the Gallup Panel who have smartphones, conducted April 17-May 18, 2015. The sample for this study was weighted to be demographically representative of the U.S. adult population, using 2012 Current Population Survey figures. For results based on this sample, one can say that the margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point at the 95% confidence level.
All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
Learn more about how the Gallup Panel works.