Smartphones have tightened their grip on Australian lives

  • The 2018 Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey shows smartphones are having an increasing impact on every-day lives.
  • Almost a quarter of Australians already watch live TV shows on their phones each week.
  • But many (39%) think they use their phones too often.

Smartphones are occupying an increasing slice of the lives of Australians.

Many (39%) think they use their phones too often, according to the 2018 Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey.

About a quarter (26%) are successful in limiting use of their smartphones, while 34% are trying but not succeeding.

Australians are holding onto their mobile phones for longer, using more data, and watching more TV.

At the same time, handset FOMO (fear of missing out) is decreasing as the cost and effort of replacing a phone rises.

Deloitte says the digital giants, such as Google, Amazon, and Apple, are towering over our lives to influence how we behave with our smartphones.

The survey found 9% of respondents now own an in-home speaker, growth rate of 200% over the last year, and 16% are using voice assistants on their mobiles, up from 14% in 2017.

Almost a quarter of Australians are already watching live TV shows on their phones each week, and with 5G around the corner, world trends suggest the smartphone could rival the traditional TV set for our viewing attention.

Australians are also trading passwords for fingerprints, with a 23% lift in the number taking up biometric fingerprint authentication on their phones.

This includes a 53% lift in the number using fingerprint technology to authorise payments and purchases, and a 67% rise in those using it for money transfers to other people.

The 2018 Deloitte survey suggests smartphones have hit saturation point in terms of market penetration, with 89% of Australians (88% in 2017) now owning one.

The number of people with new phones (less than 18 months old) has fallen to 58% from 61% in 2016 and more have older phones (aged between 18-30 months).

We are not yet at peak usage

“Over the last 10 years, the story of mobility has focused on access — the proportion of phone users is now unlikely to rise significantly,” says Peter Corbett, Deloitte Partner and National Telecommunications lead.

“What we are seeing now is a shift to understanding the many ways we can interact with mobile technology and the influence it has on human behaviours. The extent to which smartphones occupy our lives is growing, and overseas comparisons suggest we are far from peak usage.

“The smartphone is becoming even more central to the way we work (70% of us use smartphones for work, while 90% of businesses rank a connected work place in their top priorities), the way we access entertainment and how we carry out our daily lives.

“A consumer’s choice of phone impacts their access to the cloud, the expanding world of voice assistants, streaming services, smart home technologies, the ways people pay for goods and services, and even the ways they monitor their daily health.

“The impact of replacing a handset can now have significant influence on the services we access, which is another reason people are changing phones less often.”

The temptations to reach for the phone are only going to get stronger as faster download speeds and increased reliability from 5G networks.

Australia could move closer to China where researchers have say the average Chinese consumer spends more time watching content on their smartphones (2 hours 39 minutes per day) than their TVs (2 hours 32 minutes per day).

TV watching on smartphone by age group, compared top China:


Kate Huggins, a Deloitte consulting partner, says the rise of telco-tainment, the bundling of video TV streaming and entertainment services with phone contracts, unlimited data plans, and mobile enabled streaming services, is encouraging Australians to watch more long-form video content.

“There is a lot more room for growth here – streaming services continue to grow their subscriber bases, unlimited plans have only just hit the market, and 5G is around the corner; simultaneous streaming within the home will be an important use case,” Huggins says.

“We are also starting to see sports content, that was historically blacked out for streaming, become available. For example, Channel Nine acquired the digital rights to the NRL in 2018 and included the rights to live stream three games each week of the regular season, including the Grand Final.

“All of which is going to increase our thirst for data. But while our smartphones themselves are achieving luxury status and pricing to match, the data which is their lifeblood is increasingly commoditised. Pricing and business models will be one of the most vexing areas for telcos in the year to come.”

The survey shows consumers already upgrading to larger data plans with 42% opting for 5GB or more, compared to 29% in 2017. Just 4% of are on unlimited data plans.

The Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey 2018 is in its fifth year. It is a multi-country study of smartphone users with 54,150 participants across 35 countries

The Australian cut of the survey is based on a nationally representative sample of over 2,000 consumers aged 18 to 75 and was conducted in June 2018.