Survey: Are Smartphones a Vital Tool in 2015?

John Lister's picture

A newly-published study shows that the average person could manage without a smartphone for many common tasks. However, for a select group, smartphones are the only realistic option for accessing online services.

The report comes from the Pew Research Center, which brought together several surveys, each of around 2,000 smartphone users. The results provide very differing meanings, depending on how they are viewed. (Source:

Most Tasks Achievable Without Phones

On one hand, the study suggests smartphones are by no means vital for many everyday tasks. Participants were asked if they ever had trouble performing basic tasks when they didn't have their phone, or didn't have an Internet connection. Not being able to find directions was the most common problem and affected 25 percent of respondents, while setting up meetings was the only other issue to affect more than 10 percent. (Source:

That said, the responses may be down to the way the question was worded. It could be that some participants are so reliant on their phones that the reason they've never experienced such problems is that they always have their phone readily available and fully charged.

On the other hand, the study also suggests that smartphones are the only means necessary for some people to get online. It found that 15 percent of participants did not have any affordable and available option to get online other than through their phone. Meanwhile, around 10 percent used their smartphone as the only way to get online at home.

Smartphones A 'Tenuous' Method To Get Online

The crossover of those stats means that seven percent of people are forced to use smartphones if they want to get online in their home. That position is most common among younger people, black and Hispanic people, and those on lower incomes. Previous studies have suggested this is partially because such groups are more likely to be renting and moving home frequently, and thus find it harder to sign long-term cable or DSL contracts.

That leads to significant problems, as those which are dependent on smartphones for online access are considerably more likely to lose online access. While only 21 percent of all respondents said they'd had to suspend or cancel their Internet service for financial reasons, the figure is 48 percent among those dependent on smartphones for access.

Not surprisingly, 51 percent of the respondents that rely on their phone are also much more likely to hit monthly mobile data caps, compared to 35 percent which have other online options, such as computers available.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you use a smartphone and, if so, is it your only option for getting online? Have you ever found yourself unable to carry out a task because you didn't have a smartphone on hand? Do you think it's a problem for society that some people are reliant on phones to get Internet access?

Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (4 votes)


Dennis Faas's picture

If someone came and took away my computer and ripped out my Internet connection and I was only left with my smartphone, then I'd say: Yes, smartphones are a vital and necessary tool because it would be my only means of getting online. I rely on my computer every day to perform tasks and if I didn't have it (or an Internet connection), I would find it extremely difficult to function.

ecash's picture

I would like a portable device WITHOUT the phone part..
There are some interesting tools in these devices.
Like monitoring Wifi locations or Sat positions..
Great to store data on for helping Clean systems..

Having an option to plug into a Cellphone, for internet access would be fine.

But my cellphone shouldnt Be important and Expensive..If I loose it, Go buy another.

I suggested something to a group, long ago(and they are trying to do it)
Is a Modular phone.
Get the Parts you need/want.
You could even Cut out the phone part, and make it into a camera..
What ever you would need.

AlpineKris's picture

As I am not realy aware of nowadays practices with US Mobile Service Providers, this solution below might not be available in the US:

I use an ANDROID device, combined phone and tablet (7") where I can use two different SIM-cards at the same time. If I would like to have the device only for internet access, I can buy a service (prepaid) to go online without access to the mobile telephone network. Actually, this is possible with almost any "smartphone" device sold here in central Europe.

Smartphones (fully fledged) can be purchased for as little as 50.- Euros (atmo. about the same amount in Dollars) in Electronic Stores, without any bindings to a provider.

With tethering, people use their mobile devices as accesspoint to the internet for their home devices, or they use one of those USB-connected "internet sticks" which isnt much more than a phone without phoneservice. Some of those internet sticks even can create WiFi for a couple of "clients" to utilize the same internet connections.

So, this is the perspective from central Germany on

For me, the Smartphone is not a vital device YET. Local internet access gets cheaper and cheaper while faster and faster, competition is huge amongst the providers, and the government is supporting the extended reach of broadband access in rural aeras. Only young persons rely on their phone to get online. Mostly because hardware still is quite expensive, and the need of a registered adress.

Happy Easter!

blueboxer2's picture

I have no problem of affordability with a smartphone and full faith in it - the inventor (a Toronto Ph.D) being an old university buddy in whom I have great confidence. But with a cellphone, landline, laptop and desktop computer I can not figure out any function that a smartphone would perform as well, let alone better, so I have never felt to need to own one. And I won 't buy one until I can figure out a reasonable purpose for doing so.