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Grow Your Business Technology

Americans View their Smartphones as Toys, Marketer Says

You already know you love your smartphone. The question is: Why? The answer, according to one marketing expert hoping to help businesses better market to smartphone users, is that you have "mobile affinity" for the device because it's a key source of entertainment.

"The cellphone's no longer just a cellphone. It's become the way we communicate and a part of our life," said Esther Swilley, who researches technology and marketing at Kansas State University.

Swilley said a user's relationship with their phone depends on whether the owner views their cellphone or smartphone as a device that's more fun than it is functional. Gaining insight into this relationship could enable retailers to better understand the consumer mindset and could even make it possible to market to consumers individually based on their interests and beliefs, Swilley said.

Swilley found that a majority of the people she's studied are attached to their phone because of its functionality as an entertainment device rather than as a tool that can communicate.

"It's sort of similar to when people had those Tamagotchi pets as children; cellphones are just the adult version of that," Swilley said. "People don't turn them off, are constantly playing with them, and want to show off the neat things the phone can do."

Swilley said this would explain why games are the most downloaded apps for smartphones.

Swilley hopes her future research will help businesses develop better mobile coupons and create better mobile versions of their websites.