Smartphone use is habitual says a study
by Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT and Intel Labs. Smartphone users, however, don't think it's addictive but just annoying.
Researchers are concerned that smartphone habitual use is distracting from more important things around users, such as driving or work/life balance.
Unfortunately smartphones are a hard habit to break. Increasing functionality of smartphone apps increases smartphone habitual use. The main habit smartphone users develop is checking constantly.
- When smartphone users check their smartphone they usually check the menu screen, news, email, contacts, and social
networking. A typical checking lasts less than 30
seconds and involves opening the screenlock and accessing a single
- The researchers were surprised to find users engaging in checking
behaviors throughout the waking hours.
- A large proportion
of smartphone use consists solely of checkings that are associated with a small set of contexts that trigger
them, such as reading email when commuting or checking news while
The paper argues thatj informational rewards can lead to habitual behaviors if they are
very quickly accessible. In a field experiment, when the phone's contact
book application was augmented with real-time information about
contacts' whereabouts and doings, users started regularly checking the
The researchers also observed that habit-formation for one
application may increase habit-formation for related applications.
By making interesting content quickly accessible, developers are making the device more useful while the habits that emerge take more and more of a person's
The researchers were concerned that if a habitual response to, say,
boredom, is that to pick up the phone to find interesting stimuli, it
will distract the smartphone user from more important things
happening around them.
Habits are automatically triggered behaviors and
compromise the more conscious control that some situations require and
studies are already starting to associate smartphone use to dire
consequences like driving accidents and poor work-life balance.
Unfortunately, as decades of work in psychology shows, habits are not
easy to change reported Antti Oulasvirta, of HIIT,.
The study, titled "Habits Make Smartphone Use More Pervasive," is published in the journal Personal and Ubiquitous Computing. The authors are Antti Oulasvirta (HIIT), Tye Rattenbury (Intel Labs), Lingyi Ma (HIIT), and Eeva Raita (HIIT).