How Smart Phones are Changing the Way We Bank, Drive, Have Sex, and Go to the Bathroom

A new breed of smart phone users–smartphonatics–are changing the way we bank and play. A lot of it makes life easier. Some of it is just plain rude or obsessive.


There is no denying that smart phones are changing the way we work, play and manage our money. Pew Research found that half of American adults own a smart phone, and that the rate of ownership is expanding quickly in every age cohort except those 65 and older.

A new category of consumer has emerged known as the “smartphonatic,” defined as someone who changes shopping, banking and payment behavior after switching to a smart phone. Globally, a quarter of smart phone owners are considered smartphonatics, according to a study by ACI Worldwide and Aite Group. Among this group, 80% use their phone for mobile banking and 70% use it for mobile payments.

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These early adopters are driving widespread change in the banking and retailing industries. Eventually, most people will use a smart phone to manage their money at least some of the time. The percentage of smartphonatics in the U.S. (20%) lags countries like India (60%) and South Africa (42%).

We clearly love our devices. A Lookout Mobile Security study on Mobile Mindset found that just about all smart phone owners (94%) worry about losing their phone and 73% have felt panicky when they’ve misplaced their phone. Hardly any (6%) worry about security issues related to their smart phone’s access to financial accounts. Far more (38%) say their biggest financial concern when it comes to smart phones is the cost and hassle of replacing it should it go missing.

While smart phones are making personal money management more convenient, in many contexts they are also the source of gross distraction, rude and even dangerous behavior. For example, even with all we know about texting and driving, one in four smart phone owners say they check their phones while behind the wheel. Many states are moving quickly to discourage this behavior through beefed up distracted driver laws and mandatory points against drivers caught with their hands on a phone.

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Short of the plainly dangerous, there is simply the rude and obsessive. According to the Lookout study:

  • Nearly 60% of smart phone owners don’t go an hour without checking their phone.
  • Some 54% check their phones while lying in bed—before they go to sleep, after they wake up, or in the middle of the night. One in five check immediately after sex.
  • Nearly 40% check their phone while on the toilet.
  • Some 30% check their phones during a meal with others and 9% check their phones during religious services.

The scary thing is that, if anything, these numbers strike me as low. I’m no smartphonatic. But I live with a few and have seen much of this behavior first-hand. There is no turning back the clock on technology. But don’t underestimate your smart phone’s potential for mishchief. Look here for tips on how to guard financial information. As for the rude factor, that may be something we simply have to get used to.

MORE: Future Smartphone Tech: 6 Advancements to Watch


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