The Data Digest: Do Mobile Phones Make Us More Productive?

Anjali Lai

In the early 1900s, author Kin Hubbard said, “A bee is never as busy as it seems; it’s just that it can’t buzz any slower.” A century later, things haven’t changed much — except that today, those bees are us and that buzzing comes from our mobile phones.

Survey data tells us that consumers regard their mobile phones as catalysts for productivity. Considering the amount of time consumers spend using the device and how essential they characterize the technology to be, it’s easy to take their word for it. But not so fast: Mobile tracking metrics show that consumers rarely ever conduct productivity-related tasks on their devices. In fact, the official US productivity rate has dropped to its lowest point in the past two decades.

In this case, the conflicting data points are not wrong, they are complementary — and the resulting insight is even more valuable than the sum of its parts. A combination of Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, mobile tracking numbers, and ConsumerVoices output reveals that consumers engage far less frequently in productive behaviors than expected — and suggests a new understanding of what “mobile productivity” really means.

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