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Smartphone Usage Stats Suggest You Aren't Calling Your Mother (Or Anyone) Enough

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Robert Halver, chief analyst of a German private bank, makes a phone call at the stock market in Frankfurt, Germany.
Robert Halver, chief analyst of a German private bank, makes a phone call at the stock market in Frankfurt, Germany.

This may surprise you, but on almost every smartphone, there is a telephone app that you can use to dial or receive a phone call. On the iPhone, it's that green box with the white silhouette of a receiver; on the new Samsung Galaxy S3, it looks largely the same.

We describe the Telephone function found on most smartphones in such detail because a new survey on phone usage begs the question: When was the last time you opened up that app and actually called someone?

European telecom giant O2 has released a study showing that smartphone owners seem to be using the telephone much less frequently than they do other apps, ranking the telephone as the fifth most used "app" for smartphone users in terms of daily usage. In terms of minutes of use per day, phone calls trail Internet browsing, checking social networks, playing games, and listening to music, which caused at least one author to wonder if it's time to take the word "phone" out of "smartphone."

(Writing emails and text messaging come in sixth and seventh, by the way -- perhaps our smartphones really are making us lonely, as hypothesized in a TED talk by MIT professor Sherry Turkle).

Here are the raw statistics on smartphone usage, broken down by function and minutes-used-per-day:

Activity/Time Spent (In Minutes Per Day)
  • Browsing the internet: 24.81
  • Checking social networks: 17.49
  • Playing games: 14.44
  • Listening to music: 15.64
  • Making calls: 12.13
  • Checking/writing emails: 11.1
  • Text messaging: 10.2
  • Watching TV/films: 9.39
  • Reading books: 9.3
  • Taking photographs: 3.42

One might also note the equally startling stat that, per this survey, the average smartphone owner spends 128 minutes, or over 2 hours, looking at their phones each day. That's a great chunk of one's day to spend staring at a tiny glowing screen.

Though the statistics show phone calls on the wane, it's not all gloom and doom: O2 also released some numbers on what smartphone owners use their phones for, in a binary, yes/no sense. Here, phone calls fared much better, as 71 percent of survey respondents claimed to make phone calls on their devices, good for the second most popular function. Taking photographs finished first, with 74 percent of respondents using the camera function on their smartphones.

Interestingly, 64 percent have used their smartphones to replace their alarm clock, and 39 percent use smartphones as a diary. (One's smartphone password is considerably harder to break than a flimsy padlock, I suppose.)

For more intriguing statistics on smartphone usage, you can visit O2's website; for those reading on a smartphone -- yes, the O2 site is mobile-friendly.

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