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Report reveals emotional connection to phones among Millennials and Gen Z

According to a recent U.S. Cellular survey of Millennials and Gen Z consumers, kids are younger than ever when they get their first phone. However, once people have a phone, they’re waiting longer to upgrade, are more willing to use them anytime and anywhere, and think phones are nearly as precious as their wallets.

“When looking at the data, especially among younger generations, we’re noticing differences emerging in the way people relate to their device,” said Nakeita Stewart, director of sales for U.S. Cellular in Missouri.

“People form a strong emotional connection with their phone and are using it differently than in the past, with a majority of people reporting that they feel anxious or naked without it.”

Here are some of the data points that stood out:

  • Parents are providing children with phones at a younger age:
    • Gen Z (18-22) received their first phone at 14 years old compared to 15 years old for Younger Millennials (23-29) and 18 years old for Older Millennials (30-38). And for 57% of Gen Z respondents, their first phone was a smartphone compared to 37% for Younger Millennials and 22% for Older Millennials.
  • People are waiting to upgrade their device:
    • 41% percent of respondents say they hold on to their phone for as long as possible, and the top reasons to get a new device are broken phones (54%) and a new version being released (44%).
  • Many are worried about leaving or losing their device:
    • 88% of respondents would be somewhat or very concerned if they lost their phone, almost as high as if they lost their wallet (90%), keys (89%) or credit cards (89%).
  • Smartphone owners would rather be put in a variety of awkward or annoying situations than lose their phone:
    • Three out of four Millennial and Gen Z respondents would rather show an embarrassing childhood photo to coworkers than lose their phone.
    • 70% of people would rather listen to the same song on repeat for 24 hours.
    • More than two thirds of people would rather go on a terrible date or sit next to a crying baby on an airplane.
  • People are less likely to worry about phone etiquette:
    • Nearly 1 out of 10 people think that there are no places or situations where cellphone use is unacceptable. 36% of people feel it is okay to use their phone in a place of worship, and 89% think it’s appropriate to use in the bathroom.
  • People are using their phone more for internet and social media browsing than for calls or messages:
    • 67% of respondents spend less than an hour a day making calls on their device and 73% spend more than an hour a day browsing the internet.


[1]Between Nov. 14-27, 2018, a total of 1012 online interviews were conducted among a nationally representative sample of U.S. consumers between 18 – 38 years old by Consumer Insights, in partnership with Maritz CX.

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