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Here’s what happened when we monitored our mobile phone usage for a week.


living in moment

In the Moment: Image by John Blanding


We pick up our mobile phones more times than parents pick up their newborn babies, evidence suggests.  Positive conducted an experiment during #MentalHealthWeek, monitoring employee mobile phone usage over the course of the week.


Just yesterday I picked up my phone 81 times, resulting in 6 hours and 1 minute of cumulative screen time. Being stuck inside on one of the warmest Sundays of the year with a sick bulldog that howls whenever I tried to leave didn’t help the situation, but I’m not sure it made it any better. Compare my stats with those of my colleagues and the story isn’t too dissimilar – at least for the office millennials.



Average Screen Time

Average Pick-Ups


3h 39m



4h 05m



3h 21m



2h 33m


Based on a sample size of 22, with 5-6 respondents per age group.


Interestingly Positive millennials spent more time on their phones than their Generation Z counterparts – who are said to be less focused and 25% more likely to be addicted to smartphones than millennials.


Do we need a Digital Detox?

Waiting for a bus? Sipping a coffee while waiting for a colleague? Unlocking your smartphone screen hoovers up many a bored London minute.  So far, so harmless. But when habitual checking up on the world through a screen becomes a little too regular, smartphone addiction can seep in and consume. How many times have you checked your phone when you shouldn’t be bored? Slipping into the world of the smartphone when you’re with friends, family, or a partner can happen too often, and have a damaging effect on relationships.


Londoners are particularly wedded to mobile living. A study by One Poll, the Halifax Insurance Digital Home Index, says around 70 per cent of Londoners would rather lose their wedding or engagement ring than their smartphone. Eight out of 10 would struggle to go a day without their smartphone and even more of us check our email before work.


One of the major causes of smartphone addiction is Intermittent Variable Rewards – hooks used by applications and social media to keep us coming back. The game Wordscapes comes to mind – if I don’t play for a couple of days it will notify me of hints and reward me with extra coins to get to the next level. Similarly, once I’ve posted a picture to Instagram I’ll keep returning to see how many likes it’s received. The notifications on your apps are digital carrots, and you can’t get enough.


More on that in this TED talk that compares social media to slot machines.


What happened when I asked digital marketers to use their phones less?

After a week of using the Moment app to monitor their phone usage, Positive employees set goals to decrease their phone usage by up to 30% and reported greater awareness when it comes to recognising when they are using their phones without purpose. Nearly 50% of participants lessened their screen time by 20%, with only one person achieving a 30% reduction. Habitual behaviours need gradual weaning, and monitoring your own phone usage can help you free up some time to spend in more meaningful ways.


We know the importance of mobile to marketing, with mobile searches overtaking desktop for the first time and mobile-friendly websites being prioritised in search engines. The lines between online and offline are blurring, with mobile becoming part of the in-store shopping experience, and social media platforms becoming increasingly shoppable. With the ever-expanding mobile marketing universe becoming part of every day life, marketers need to work harder to cut through the noise – and utilise Intermittent Variable Awards to advantage. Take the example of a user-generated content campaign – this naturally calls on ‘tribal’ behaviour where our brains seek our rewards that make us feel accepted and included as part of a community.


What’s ‘Normal’ in 2018?

According to data from research heavyweights like Nielsen and ComScore, the average time spent on mobile phones per adult per day in 2017 was ‘over four hours a day’. But that could really mean anything. Meanwhile a Nokia study reports that we’re now checking our phones 150 times a day — or once every six and a half minutes while we are awake.

Phone Blog 2

A study by University College London (UCL) found that adults spend more than two hours a day just looking at their smartphone, with one in 20 admitting to looking at their phone for six hours a day or longer.


“People develop attachments towards devices such as their phone, which can be damaging,” said Dr Kiki Leutner of UCL. “Attributing this kind of attachment to an object can be damaging in the long term - people who have constant contact and validation from mobile devices may deepen their dependence on others, affecting both their behaviour and relationships.”


Multi-screening, like internet shopping while watching Netflix, has also proliferated in recent times, and that’s not good news either.


“Doing things that distance us from screens can have a positive effect. For example, going to the theatre is an experience that makes you totally present. Outside stimuli are removed, mobile phones have to be switched off, and for a couple of hours you are away from the real world and the impact of screens,” continues Leutner.


I, for one, feel disappointed when I exit the cinema to be greeted by a blank notification screen. Seriously, nothing happened throughout the 2h 40m of Avengers: Infinity War? At least there’s nearly 3 hours of Facebook scrolling to catch up on…


How do we spend our screen time?

Based on our Positive sample, Facebook is responsible for the majority of screen time, followed by Whatsapp and Safari. Navigational apps make it into the top five, which at least suggests we’re engaging with the real world on some level.

Phone Blog 3

Perhaps non-surprisingly, those aged 40+ spent more time using their phones for their primary function, AKA calling and texting, more than any other age group.  Meanwhile, millennial and Generation Z participants failed to make any calls during our test period, supporting the evidence that young people avoid talking on the phone since the advent of WhatsApp, Messenger and Snapchat. Symptomatically, dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble also made the top 10.


Final Thoughts

Since Apple sparked the smartphone revolution mobile devices have gone from trendy devices to everyday staples that cater to practical needs. Gone are the days where meeting someone meant being in a certain place at a certain time and not being late. We live in a world of micro moments and instant gratification, where behaviour changes impulsively and rapidly, and where being offline means missing out.


The number one alarm clock is the mobile phone and most of us check our phones from our waking minute until we go to bed. But in spite of all of this, mobile phone usage today is less representative of addictive behaviour and more indicative of a massive cultural shift.


With change comes challenge, so make sure your marketing arsenal is up to scratch. We’ll gather meaningful mobile insights across Analytics, social media and more while you take some (screen)time out. Discover our digital services here.