Senior Product Designer


How I Used My "Phone" In One Day

There was nothing particularly special about Tuesday. It was a pretty mundane run-of-the-mill day. I didn't travel anywhere, or attend a special event. This made it a perfect day for an experiment I had been thinking about conducting for a while. We all know that we rarely use the phones in our pockets for actual phone calls, but I was curious to what extent this was true. So I decided I would pick a completely random day and log every activity I used my "phone" for throughout the course of the day.

Out of 51 total recorded activities, I only used the telephone function once; or 1.96% of total device usage for the day. Here's the complete breakdown of how I used my phone this past Tuesday (its an iPhone 4s for those curious minds):

  • Alert: At 5:00am an alarm went off with a custom ringtone I made; the chorus phrase from U2's "Wake Up Dead Man".
  • Social: After unlocking it, I indicated on Path that I was now "awake".
  • Flashlight: I used the glowing backlight of screen to guide my way to bathroom in the dark without disturbing my wife's sleep.
  • Research: Checked the weather outside so I could select proper running attire to wear.
  • Radio: Turned on a podcast via Stitcher to listen to during my run.
  • GPS: Opened Strava to track the GPS of the run
  • Productivity: After the run, I sat on my front porch to cool down and started logging my phone activities for this post in Evernote (did this throughout the day, but I won't mention it every time).
  • Social: While still cooling down, I briefly checked my social network feeds on Flipboard (I like using this as an aggregator of all networks).
  • Research: As I was getting dressed for the day, I checked the weather again and my calendar app (Fantastical) to see how I needed to dress for the day.
  • Alert: Then a weekly reminder alarm started going off telling me to takethe recycles down to the curb.
  • Shopping: During breakfast, I had a quick conversation about our budget with my wife, which we opened on our phones (YNAB) for reference.
  • Shopping: While preparing my lunch, I realized we were out of some things, so I added those items to our shared grocery list
  • Radio: My son was a bit of a grump while I was driving him to daycare, so I put on the Norah Jones radio station on Rdio in attempt to sooth him (worked somewhat...)
  • GPS: There's a few different routes I'll take to the office depending on traffic, so I use the Waze mapping app to tell me where the build up is at. (I do love the Google Maps app for directions, but nothing yet compares to real-time traffic updates that Waze provides).
  • Social: When I get to the office, I check in via Path which checks me in with Foursquare as well.
  • Productivity: At 8:30 I receive a notification from Things about my tasks that are due for the day.
  • Research: While going through my work email, I notice that I had a missed call on my work phone (which I never use because I only give out my Google Voice number). I typed the number into my phone's dial pad to see if I had the number logged anywhere in my address book.
  • Alert: I received a notification from the WordPress app that a new comment has been left on one of my recent blog posts.
  • Entertainment: During a private, one-man business meeting, in a small enclosed room (#coughcough... yeah, you know what I mean), I read some news stories that I had marked for later reading in Pocket. Only one story was still in there so I turned to Feedly for some more brief reading from new posts in my Google Reader account.
  • Social: I found a cool article in there, which I posted to my Buffer account to publish to Twitter
  • Alert: One of my friends had just joined Instagram. So I followed them.
  • Alert: Comment left on one of my Facebook photos
  • Alert: Ink, a gift card app, reminded me that Valentines day was coming and that it was the last day to make shipping on time before the holiday.
  • Shopping: So over lunch I quickly assembled a card using a photo of my wife and I and wrote a custom message. I paid for the card in the app to have it delivered to our house.
  • Alert: The Chase app notified me of the transaction.
  • Shopping: I entered the payment into our budget/tracking app.
  • Camera: After a long brainstorming meeting with a collegue, I snapped a photo of our whiteboard to save our thoughts into Evernote.
  • Alert: Received a news alert from the CNN app about some global news events.
  • Productivity: A coworker told me about this great service called Hojoki, so I downloaded their app after signing up for an account.
  • Alert: Google+ alerted me that some more folks would be attending a hangout I am hosting.
  • Alert: I have an alert go off on my phone just after 4pm every work day to snap me out of whatever I'm doing and have me start winding down my work for the day.
  • Research: Before I left the office, I opened the Find My iPhone app to ensure that my wife was actually at the gym, and I was in-fact picking up our son from daycare.
  • Alert: I have a geo-fenced reminder to go off to remind me to buy more wine (it's 10% off every Tuesday at my local shop).
  • Social: Tweeted about the beautiful weather when I walked out the door.
  • Radio: Put on Stitcher radio again to listen to some podcasts on the way home.
  • Productivity: Was at a dead-stop in traffic for a while, so I pulled up my email in the Gmail app.
  • Social: Checked in to Foursquare via Path when I got to the wine store.
  • Shopping: Added some more items to purchase to our Costco shopping list (Grocery IQ again)
  • Camera: Was playing a physical Angry Birds game and snapped a photo of a tower my son built.
  • Phone: Called my parents back who wanted to sing Happy Birthday to my youngest son.
  • Social: Replied to a tweet using the Twitter app.
  • Entertainment: Watched a video in the YouTube app by pushing it from my phone to the Apple TV in my kitchen.
  • Social: Shared that clip to Twitter and Google+ because it was amazing.
  • Alert: Got a few more notifications from CNN, eBay and Google+ while I was eating dinner.
  • Social: Checked updates on some social networks again.
  • Other: Updated the apps through the App Store.
  • Research: Checked my calendar and tomorrow's weather to plan for the next day.
  • Alert: Checked the time for my alarm to wake me up in the morning.
  • Productivity: Checked my email again before going to sleep (working in an international business you never know when something may arise that needs attention).
  • Radio: Put on some music on Rdio to soothe me to sleep.
  • Social: Indicated on Path that I was now going to sleep.

What does this tell us? Well, nothing special or new to anyone living in today's digital age. We all know we don't really use our devices as phones anymore. But changing the name of the device to anything else would seem ludicrous.

It could be interesting to do a similar exercise in a few years and compare it with this one. My guess is that maybe we'll see the category I listed as "shopping" (or payments) be much more prevelant on our mobile devices.

What percentage of time on your mobile device do you think you use the phone?