Smartphones essential to our lives - but what else could we use them for?

Survey respondents say they’d like to have passport and driving licence integrated into their phone

Half of those surveyed by Deloitte said they stay awake later than planned because they use their devices into the night, a number which was nearer 70% for people in the 18-34 age bracket (PeopleImages/Getty Images)

Is checking your smartphone the first thing you do in the morning?

I’ll reluctantly admit that it’s a routine I’ve fallen into, and while I don’t like it, I was reassured by research Deloitte carried out recently across Ireland that showed I am far from alone.

The poll of 1,000 people between 18 and 75 found that seven in 10 of us use their smartphone as soon as they wake up - up from 59% a year ago, while a third of people also said they use them during mealtimes (anyone with children will recognise this challenge).

Half of the people we surveyed said they stay awake later than planned because they use their devices into the night, a number which was nearer 70% for people in the 18-34 age bracket.

Our research also showed more than a third of us check our smartphones at least 50 times a day and 16% reckoned they check it over 100 times.

I’m sure all of this sounds eerily familiar. After all, almost all of us own smartphones and whether you’re an Apple devotee, Samsung user or in another brand’s camp, they are the preferred device for browsing shopping websites, making online purchases, scrolling social media, banking and playing games.

A total of 74% of respondents have access to video streaming services via their phones with the average person having more than two, although more than one in five cancelled a streaming service in the last year due to cost or content quality.

It’s no surprise either that 67% of the people we surveyed wish they spent less time on their devices and that number rose to 80% among 18-34 years olds – with a higher percentage of women than men saying they spent too much time on their phones.

While we can all probably agree that spending less time doom-scrolling and watching mindless content into the night would do us some good, the interesting part of the survey for me was actually in what more people thought we could be doing with our smartphones.

For example, just over a third of people said they’d like to replace their existing passport with one that’s integrated into their smartphone, and 33% said they’d like their driving licence on their phone too. Other uses suggested by almost a fifth of our survey respondents were using their smartphone to unlock their house and car.

While having your ID on your phone might feel like a step too far for some people, trends can change quickly. One in five of those surveyed already have an external security camera or video doorbell hooked up to their smartphone, something that was very niche only a few years ago, and making in-person payments with your phone is now commonplace.

The European Parliament and Council of the EU have already started to move towards the adoption of ID technology by reaching final agreement on European Digital Identity Wallets, a move which is now subject to formal approval. If approved, the wallets will serve as a form of national ID card which could be used for both online and offline public and private services across the EU.

Digital driving licences are now in use in countries such as South Korea and Iceland. In the UK the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency has said it is aiming to develop an app featuring the licences required by those learning to drive by the end of this year and if the digital roll-out proves to be a success then full driving licences could follow suit.

The increased utility, safety and functionality of smartphones is opening up a range of possibilities for businesses, for employers and for public sector service providers, so it is actually quite exciting to think what else could be incorporated on them by the end of the decade.

But it probably won’t help those of us who are trying to resist reaching for our phones the moment we open our eyes in the morning!

  • Aisléan Nicholson is a partner at Deloitte