Smartphones: Indispensable Even When on the Road?

A lot of us consistently rely on our smartphones to deliver anything and everything, from texting and emails to streaming media or a 20-minute near-record-beating performance on the glorious Temple Run 2. Still, we all have our moments when we take time out to use them. Often, it’s in front of a boring TV programme; others use it as a point of reference in a tight spot; many will simply go back to the aforementioned Temple Run 2 on a toilet break and once again have a crack at their top score.

Still, those on the move in their car – only recently given access to whatever information they want while out and about – are also smartphone users. It’s not an ideal situation, given the inherent dangers of on-the-road texting or phone calls that we often hear about (and are actively campaigned against through government initiatives), though the information is not all negative – in fact, it’s only highlighting how people consult their trusty device as a matter of second nature, whichever next-generation handset they may opt for.

eMarketer recently compiled a report looking into the phenomenon of smartphones and their part in modern life, though specifically focused on those who are on the road. First pointing to a Q3 2012 study from Forrester Research, it underlined how nearly three-quarters of smartphone internet users would use internet-based apps on their phone while in the car – though it did not specify if they were drivers or passengers.

Nonetheless, more conclusive evidence pointing to drivers was offered in a survey of US internet users carried out last year by McKinsey & Company. It was discovered that nearly nine out of ten people using a smartphone while driving said they would make or answer a phone call while at the wheel. On top of this, around 70 per cent claimed they would use phones for navigation – far from perfect, given the recent controversies with the likes of Apple Maps, as well as smartphones’ general inferiority to dedicated GPS navigators. Meanwhile, four in ten people texted a contact with one hand on the wheel, while three in ten were on the internet, using an app, or checking social networks and email.

However, it’s still a matter of age when it comes to spikes in usage. McKinsey found there to be a major split between those aged 18 to 39, and the 40 to 69 demographic; 55 per cent of the former believe the ability to access this information while driving is important, compared to just 29 per cent of the latter.

eMarketer was still positive regarding the ways in which drivers place “a high value on data access in order to ensure that they can get directions to their destination”; while it certainly doesn’t condone the use of phones for calls and texting, the geo-locative technology contained within smartphones is crucial to them – to drivers, the company added, “a smartphone without data is no better than an expensive paperweight”.