Who Are Smartphone Users? GfK Study Results May Surprise You


New research identifies five types of mobile users – from Embracers to Information Seekers.

According to new GfK MRI research, today’s smartphone user is just as likely to be seeking mindless entertainment – playing a game or streaming a video – as connecting with friends and family through texting or other modes.

The findings come from a just-published GfK MRI study, Mobile Now, conducted from September to November 2015 among over 5,900 US smartphone owners. The study shows that 22% of time spent on smartphones is devoted to entertainment – games, music, web surfing, and watching streamed content; that is the same proportion devoted to texting. Phone calls account for another 22% of time; social media, 10%, and emails, 10%.

In addition to time spent with different smartphone functions, the Mobile Now report also covers today’s five types (segments) of mobile users – from social media ”addicts” to game enthusiasts (see below for more information) top smartphone uses and activities across mobile segments, as well as different generations and ethnicities popularity and potential of wearables – including reasons for wanting and intent to purchase trends in mobile purchase behavior by platform and mode.

First Touch?

When GfK MRI asked consumers which smartphone apps or functions they turn to first thing in the morning, texting was cited most often, by 67% of respondents. Email came in second, mentioned by 63%, followed by Facebook (48%) and the weather (44%). Hispanics were even more likely to mentioned texting (73%), with email a relatively distant also-ran (at 64%).


Games overall came in 7th first thing in the morning, mentioned by 19% of respondents. And streaming music service Pandora (12%) placed above Pinterest, Twitter, and other well-known social media apps.

Con–or Pro–Textual?

Over two-thirds (68%) of consumers – and more than four-fifths (83%) of Millennials – reported that they text more than they talk on their smartphones. And texting is the phone feature that respondents said they would miss most if it was not available.

”GfK MRI has always been at the forefront of providing insights into the who of today’s American consumer,” said Christie Kawada, EVP, GfK MRI Product Innovation (pictured top left). “We go beyond demographics to define attitudes and beliefs, buying styles, and even values. Now that mobile has become the new ‘first screen’ for consumers, it is natural that we would help advertisers and agencies understand how people are engaging with their phones – the websites and apps they are launching, and what else they do in the mobile world. We are using these deeper insights to make programmatic more efficient and powerful, and to activate digital buys more broadly. Look for more strong moves in this space from GfK MRI in the near future.”

The study also reveals that roughly four in ten (39%) of smartphone owners are either ardent Mobile Embracers (24%), who integrate their smartphones into every aspect of their lives, or Entertainment Seekers (15%) – young singles who are drawn to mobile gaming and watching streaming video.

The other key segments that GfK MRI identified:

Casual Gamers – 18% of the smartphone population, likely to be white women who have kids

Info Seekers – 18%, frequently white, educated, married men interested in news and/or sports

Mobile Fundamentals
– 25%, awkward users who need help just downloading a new app



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