Some Consumers Have Ditched Their Smartphones Since the Pandemic Peak

Perhaps burnt out on digital connectivity in the time since the initial outbreak of COVID-19, the share of consumers who own smartphones has actually dipped in recent years.

By the Numbers

The “How Connected Devices Enable Multitasking Among Digital-First Consumers” edition of the PYMNTS Intelligence “How We Will Pay​” series drew from a survey of more than 4,600 U.S. consumers last summer to understand how digital-first consumers are using connected devices in their daily lives. 

The results revealed that, while ownership of many connected devices has been on the rise, smartphone ownership has fallen off slightly. Where 90% of consumers owned such a device in 2020, that share had dipped to 85% by 2023. 

The Data in Context

Many people are increasingly concerned about the amount of time they spend on their devices. Switching to a dumb phone can help them break the habit of constant screen time and reduce digital distractions. Some people are drawn to the simplicity and ease of use of dumb phones. They may appreciate the straightforward functionality without the complexity of apps, notifications and constant updates. 

Additionally, there is some evidence indicating that reducing smartphone use can improve mental health by lowering stress, anxiety, and the constant pressure to stay connected and updated with social media and other online platforms.

Indeed, it seems, at least as of data from 2022, that the lower-tech trend has been gaining momentum in the U.S. Digitally native Generation Z consumers are looking to go back in time for a moment of low stimulation — and what older consumers would view as nostalgia.

For instance, Nokia reportedly sold tens of thousands of phones each month in 2022, and the U.S. saw a rise in feature flip phone sales — a type of mobile phone that has more advanced features than a basic or “dumb” phone, but not as many features as a smartphone — the same year. 

Just last month, Heineken announced a collaboration with streetwear marketplace Bodega to launch The Boring Phone, a non-internet-connected flip phone. The brand will launch an app to “turn smartphones boring” in June.