Toronto Mike

Are you addicted? 45 percent of Canadians say they "couldn't live without their cellphones"

Last year, smartphone penetration in Canada topped 85 percent. The figure continues to rise, and could easily plateau in the 90s. Right now, the proportion of over-65s with a smartphone stands at 55 percent, a number that is inevitably going to rise with every passing year, if only due to the population aging.

We reach for our phones automatically when we go out, and most of us feel as if we have lost a limb if we accidentally find ourselves loose in the big wide world without it. As if to prove the point, a survey conducted in 2021 found that 45 percent said they “could not live without their smartphone”. Only 34 percent disagreed with the statement and 21 percent gave a neutral response.

Your world in your handset

It’s easy to be cynical and dismiss that 45 percent – or what is almost certainly more in reality – as spoilt millennials who have spent their entire lives on easy street. Think about it a moment, though, and you’ll realize there is more going on here than panic attacks over being unable to take a selfie or check social media feeds.

For many of us, our world is in our handset. People talk about the world going cashless, it is rapidly going cardless too, as more of us use digital wallets or mobile banking apps to make payments. Without our phones, we can’t even contact a family member for assistance – and when was the last time you saw a payphone in Toronto?

The truth is we are getting ever-more reliant on our handsets. Today, if you attend a show or even book a flight, the likelihood is you won’t be issued a paper ticket or boarding pass. Electronic ones are great in that they save paper, can be issued remotely with zero delay and won’t drop out of your pocket by accident. But if you don’t have your phone to hand or can’t power it up, you can find yourself denied entrance or even missing your flight.

How do we really use our phones?

So much for rationalizing fears. The truth, at least in 2023, is that very few of us rely exclusively on digital payments. Most of us still carry a wallet with cards, and even a few real dollars. A phone is a convenience, not a crutch, and one that we should still be able to manage without.

Think of it this way – what do you mostly use your phone for? A study set out to answer that exact question, and if your answer included “paying for essential purchases” or “doing my day-to-day work” or even “storing tickets for shows and boarding passes for flights,” you are in a minority. They found that in 2021, the average Canadian spent four hours and 24 minutes of every day “engaged with mobile apps.” That is a quarter of an answer at best, as the only thing it tells us for sure is that making phone calls is no longer the primary purpose of our phones.

The follow up question of what type of apps are most commonly used is more illuminating. Here are the top answers:

Social media and communication are ranked #1 – you might wonder why these are linked together, but the point is there is some crossover, as apps like Facebook Messenger are among the most popular communication apps. Also, when you think about it, what are social media apps if not communication platforms? It actually shows that a phone’s prime purpose as a communication device has not changed quite so much after all.

Most app downloads are games – in some respects, this is no surprise. We all like playing a game or two, and even a casual gamer might have five or six games installed. But we only need one banking app or weather app. So the number of games on phones might be unsurprising. However, one particular type of game could raise an eyebrow:

Casino apps are bursting with popularity – a combination of the events of 2020 and relaxation of gambling in certain provinces has seen a surge in punters visiting Canadian online casino platforms. You can click here to see a few independently assessed options and the sort of casino games they have available.

In short, while we are certainly more reliant on our phone than we were, the evidence suggests there’s really no cause for panic if we leave it at home once in a while. Why not kick back and risk it – who knows, you might even find it liberating!

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About Toronto Mike
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