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February 20, 2018

Millennials Give Smartphones One Thumb Up

Try this experiment.

Pick up your smartphone and check the weather app for your hometown. Now pick another city on your list.

Now go to your mobile browser and check out the latest at POLITICO.

Finally, send a test text message to a friend, titled: “Thumb Testing…..”


First published at Politico Media

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You’ve now tested more than your thumb. You’ve participated in a great generational drama of our time: How we all are coming to use our universal communicators, the smartphone. While innumerable theses are in the process of being written on the life-changing smartphone, Comscore has asked a couple of questions on one relatively unexplored appendage of the revolution: our thumbs.

This era’s generation gap plays out on the 2.6 billion smartphones now in use worldwide. Our generation seems to define how we use our phones, down to our thumbs and hands.

In our little experiment, how many hands did you use, one or both? What’s your tapping/punching digit of choice: index or thumb?

If you used both hands to navigate from weather to POLITICO to text message, there’s a good chance you are over 55. If the thumb did the light lifting, you’re more likely to be 18 and 34.

In the chart below, we can see the profound split among generations. As Comscore pCOMSCORE THUMB GRAPHIC 1 copyuts it, “Your Dad’s not the only one who operates his smartphone with two hands – it’s a generational thing.”

Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising: Worldwide, the latest research pegs daily smartphone usage among the young at 3.2 hours a day, or the equivalent of almost one day per week (22.4 hours). Those aged 46-65 spend a paltry 1.5 hours, that and creeping arthritis explaining their lack of dexterity.

I asked Andrew Lipsman, comScore’s VP of Marketing & Insights, whether the June study took into account the big screen of the iPhone 6 Plus or other larger-screened handsets? No, but Comscore may test that in the future.

Apple, of course, anticipated the issue, introducing the Reachability two-tap to put a whole screen in half-screen reach, way back in the fall of 2014. Still too small-thumbed? Then, give thanks this holiday for a Japanese accessory solution: the Thanko thumb extender, providing 15 extra millimeters of reach for 1,480 yen (US$13.56)

Then, there’s the next generational test: How consciously do you place your apps to maximize “thumb reach” access? Of those who consider themselves one-handed users, a majority think through the placement of their apps on the home screen.

COMSCORE THUMB GRAPHIC 2 copyThose 55+ are little less likely to do that, but between five and six of 10 one-handers move those little icons around. Call it strategic thumbfoolery – or, maybe, digitization squared.

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