Motorola Study Shows Alarming Results That Confirm Need for Better Phone-Life Balance

There is no denying, our phones have become an extension of ourselves. They entertain us, connect us, inform us, and enable us to explore our passions, relive our memories and communicate our deepest thoughts to the world. We love our smartphones, but when does the love for our phones supersede the relationships we hold most dear? When does time with our smartphone become more important than time with our parents, spouse, children, and friends? And how will we know when we’ve crossed the line into problematic behavior?

As the creator of the first-ever mobile phone, we feel responsible to understand the impact of this rapidly-developing technology and the desire to have it support our lives without becoming the center of it – a term we call phone-life balance.

To gain these insights, we developed a global study in partnership with Dr. Nancy Etcoff, renowned expert in Mind-Brain Behavior and the Science of Happiness at Harvard University and Psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry. The study, issued by the independent research company, Ipsos, looks at behaviors and phone use habits across generations and seeks to understand the impact of smartphones on our relationships with ourselves, other people, and the physical and social environment.

“For the majority of smartphone users, their problematic behaviors are mindless responses and bad habits that they need help in overcoming,” says Dr. Nancy Etcoff. “Behavioral nudges, environmental control, and mindfulness will all help, as will the efforts of those within the smartphone industry. The broad social pattern uncovered in this survey of multiple countries highlights the need for collective understanding and action.”

Key Findings:
The study shows people are putting their phones before the people they care about, with the most alarming findings tied to younger generations who have grown up in a digital world. We also understand people recognize the need for balance and are raising their hands for help:

  • Phone Importance: One-third (33 percent) of respondents prioritize their smartphone over engaging with people they care about and want to spend time with them.
  • Generational Factors: Issues with smartphones are more intense among younger generations, with over half (53 percent) of Gen Z respondents describing their phone as a best friend.
  • Help Wanted: People want help with phone-life balance. In fact, 61 percent of participants agree that they want to get the most out of their phone when they are on it, and the most out of life when they are not.
  • Separation Desired: The majority of participants (60 percent) say it’s important to have a life separate from their phones.

We pinpointed three key problematic smartphone behaviors that impact our relationships with others and ourselves, with the study showing that younger generations are more likely to adopt these problematic behaviors:

  • Compulsive Checking: Half (49 percent) agree that they check their phone more often than they would like (nearly 6 in 10 in both Gen Z and Millennial generations) and agree they feel compelled to constantly check their smartphone (44 percent).
  • Excessive Phone Time: A third (35 percent) agree that they are spending too much time using their smartphone (44 percent of Gen Z) and believe they would be happier if they spent less time on their phone (34 percent).
  • Emotional Overdependence: Two-thirds (65 percent) admit they “panic” when they think they have lost their smartphone (about 3 in 4 Gen Z and Millennials) and three in ten (29 percent) agree that when they are not using their phone they are “thinking about using it or planning the next time I can use it.”

What We’re Doing:
Clearly there is a need for a better phone-life balance. To see where you are at on the scale, we’ve created an online quiz consisting of 10 simple questions to better understand your relationship with your phone. You can take the quiz at

We’re also working with like-minded third-party organizations as well as looking at our own behavior at Motorola to bring new initiatives and programs that help people strike a healthy balance.

  • Motorola is working with the SPACE Phone-Life Balance App, which offers a 60-day program to help smartphone users become more mindful of their phone usage. The app helps with things like screen dimming, notification blockers and more. This app is especially relevant for those exhibiting the problematic behavior for “compulsive checking,” as it helps people become more aware of their phone habits and learn how to find balance.
  • Through our Transform the Smartphone Challenge, developers can submit ideas via a partnership with Indiegogo for new Moto Mods which may help you use your phone more mindfully, or may help bring people together with experiences.
  • Moto Experiences help support more intuitive mobile interactions. For instance, Moto Display lets you easily respond to notifications without going down the ‘rabbit hole’. Our innovative Moto Mods ecosystem allows you to do more with your phone with others around you. We’re making devices that create social experiences.
  • Inside our walls, we’ll be encouraging employees to practice phone-life balance in their own lives and are providing tips on how to achieve this balance.

About The Study:
The Motorola Phone-Life Balance Study, was fielded online from November 30, 2017 to December 26, 2017 among 4,418 smartphone users aged 16 to 65 in the U.S., Brazil, France, and India. The margin of sampling error for total respondents (n=4,418) is ±1.5 percent, this means if the study were replicated, the study findings would not vary by more than 1.5 percentage points for total respondents 95 times out of 100.