Survey Shows Consumer Behavior Shift in Personal Devices

by Chris Hubble, CEO at Bastion db5

The pandemic made many of us more dependent on devices than we already were. In 2020 and on, children went to school via laptop, parents worked via Microsoft Teams, young adults graduated college via Zoom, and many of us entertained ourselves via Tik-Tok while ordering dinner via DoorDash.

This increase in personal device tech-reliance has caused a change in behavior in our technology preferences.

In August 2021, we partnered with Vox Media and surveyed more than 1,000 tech users to gain insights into how many people really do want the latest and greatest gadgets this year. Many notable consumer behavior trends were learned showing how our relationship with technology has evolved.

Before the pandemic, only 30 percent of U.S. employees worked remotely, according to Owl Labs. According to Gallup polls between 2020 and 2021 half the entire U.S. workforce currently works remotely. Our data shows that eight out of ten people say they use their cellphone and/or laptop more than pre-pandemic, and six out of ten say they do so “much more.” This comes at no surprise, but it goes to show people expect their mobile devices to play even more important roles moving forward with the upward trend in remote work.

When it comes to our cell phones, we’re on them more than ever before. 81 percent of those surveyed said they use their cell phone more now than they did in 2019. In 2020 anything that relied on human-to-human contact – which is to say, most aspects of our lives – had to be amended to account for the dangers of the COVID-19. Digitization stepped in to bridge the gap and left many of us using our phones for all of our human interactions.

Let’s dive into how this relationship change with our devices can potentially affect sales, upgrades and brand loyalty in the technology industry.

The demand is already evident in the increased sales for mobile devices in 2020, despite limitations in the supply chain putting a squeeze on availability. It looks set to continue throughout 2021 and beyond. Half of cell phone owners (48%) and laptop owners (50%) stated they had consciously held off purchasing a new device during the pandemic. As a group, their devices are aging fast.

●      One third of cell phones (37%) are more than a year old, and 11 percent are more than 3 years old (that’s 100M+ and 30M+ cell phones primed for upgrade).

●      Laptops are even more aged with almost half (47%) being more than a year old and 14 percent being more than 3 years old (110M+ and 35M+ laptops primed for upgrade).

In the mobile category we see a lot of claimed brand loyalty. Seventy-eight percent of cell phone users claimed they are loyal to their current provider but would be willing to switch if prices increased too much. One-quarter of Apple users and two-thirds of LG users responded saying they are open to switching cell phone hardware providers. The opportunity to increase market share is even greater among laptop owners. Between a third of Apple users and almost three-quarters of HP and Dell users are open to switching laptop hardware providers.

When it comes to buying a new device, the top features a cell phone and laptop buyer are looking for are: a long battery life, the operating system (Android, iPhone IOS, Windows, Apple), brand reputation and speed. In order for cellphone and laptop providers to keep this loyalty it’s advantageous for these companies to analyze how consumers are using their phone and laptops. According to our survey results cellphones are used most for social media, food delivery, and streaming video. Laptops are most used for streaming video, social media, and online shopping.

The coronavirus is permanently reshaping the way we live and work. Some of the behaviors developed in crisis — including wide-scale digital adoption — will outlast the pandemic. And mobile device sales will stay primed to meet increasing needs. This all means we will likely see a further surge in mobile apps that allow us to do more things remotely via our mobile devices.


Chris Hubble serves as CEO of market research and consumer insights agency Bastion db5. Before founding db5 in 2009, Chris served as Chief Executive Officer at Hall & Partners USA. Chris has 30+ years of experience in consumer insights with particular expertise in new product development, brand strategy, brand communications, and customer experience. He’s worked with over 50% of Fortune 500 clients. Bastion db5 has done work for Yahoo!, Verizon Media, and BuzzFeed.

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