mobile digital joy

When students were surveyed at Stanford University about their mobile phone use, researchers found that three-quarters of respondents said their iPhone made them happier, and over 50% agreed they “loved” the device.

According to researcher Tanya Luhrmann, “One of the most striking things we saw in the interviews was just how identified people were with their iPhone… not so much with the object itself, but it had so much personal information that it became a kind of extension of the mind and a means to have a social life. It just kind of captured part of their identity.”

These sentiments echo earlier findings from the In:fact 2009 Synovate global survey, which documented public sentiment of 8,000 urban mobile phone owners from 11 countries including Canada, Denmark, France, Malaysia, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America (US). Synovate found that, hands-down, smartphones are becoming “remote controls for life.”

iPhone love has everything to do with users’ ability to personalize their smartphones by downloading apps. Once custom-configured, the smartphone is a tool for mobile content consumption and what theorists call “private nomadic leisure” (pdf)—the ideal technogadget to fill wait times and other moments of microboredom.

David Armano describes the smartphone as a “social media lifeline.” This makes the device important not only as a communications tool but also a key technology for constructing identity and managing community microcoordinations in a networked culture. Similarly, when Viacom’s MTV and Nickelodeon conducted their 2009 “Circuits of Cool/Digital Playground” technology and lifestyle study, asking youth about their digital technology use, they concluded that, “kids and young people don’t love the technology itself – they just love how it enables them to communicate all the time, express themselves and be entertained.”

So what’s inside the phone (apps/functions) and the social behaviors it enables explain our love for the devices. Fair enough. But considering that both Google and Blackberry smartphone brands also have extensive app collections, we might ask: what is it about the iPhone specifically that makes consumers fall hard?

Apple Computers is a brand that has achieved Lovemark status as explained by Saatchi & Saatchi—a process whereby consumers identify with the brand values, incorporating them into their lifestyle. Part of the emotional attachment users develop with these products has to do with a tireless commitment to making machines that optimize and simplify user experience—a design process explained by Michael Lopp, senior engineering manager at Apple as “removing ambiguity.” Good to look at, a pleasure to (be)hold, and in the case of the handheld multi-touch screens, a pleasure to stroke and “pet” —Apple’s Macs, iPods and iPhones are coveted objects and status symbols.

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About Sidneyeve Matrix

Professor, blogger, trendwatcher. I share research & news about digital culture & commerce on Google+, Pinterest, and Twitter.

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