No Smart Phone Is an Island: The Impact of Places, Situations, and Other Devices on Smart Phone Use

We interviewed 21 people both before and after they acquired an iPhone 3G or T-Mobile G1 to assess how next-generation smart phones impact user behavior. We focused on exploring what motivates people to use their smart phones, what applications they use, what information they access or produce, when and for how long they interact with their phones, and how this usage relates to other tasks and devices. Our results suggest that the use of next-generation mobile phones depends heavily on contexts, particularly users’ other devices and the places and situations users encounter. We observed that users employ their mobile phones in concert with, not independent of, their other computers. Rather than just mimicking desktop use, however, they employ their phones in different ways and for new tasks. The places and situations in which users employ their phones shape the tasks they undertake and how they make time to use their devices, fill idle time with them, or defer tasks to their other devices. We draw on our observations to offer design implications, focusing on how to support mobile phone use in the context of other devices and different places and situations.

By: Tara Matthews; Jeffrey Pierce; John Tang

Published in: RJ10452 in 2009


This Research Report is available. This report has been submitted for publication outside of IBM and will probably be copyrighted if accepted for publication. It has been issued as a Research Report for early dissemination of its contents. In view of the transfer of copyright to the outside publisher, its distribution outside of IBM prior to publication should be limited to peer communications and specific requests. After outside publication, requests should be filled only by reprints or legally obtained copies of the article (e.g., payment of royalties). I have read and understand this notice and am a member of the scientific community outside or inside of IBM seeking a single copy only.


Questions about this service can be mailed to .