Emily Groch
Emily Groch is Mintel Comperemedia’s Director of Insights, Telecommunications, providing omni-channel marketing analysis and competitive insights to telecom providers.

Consumers have some anxiety about how much time they spend in front of screens. Nearly two-thirds of Millennials feel they spend too much time online or using devices, and almost half make a point to take time away from technology according to Mintel research on marketing to US Millennials. Similarly, nearly half of Millennials said they spend too much time in front of screens. From silly to practical, device manufacturers are developing a wide range of potential solutions to address consumers’ anxiety about hyper-connectivity.

Major smartphone manufacturers offer a variety of safeguards to enable users to manage their kids’ device time, as well as their own screen addictions. Recently, with iOS 12, Apple unveiled Screen Time, a feature that records how many times per day a user picks up their phone. Apple also introduced Downtime, which enables users to schedule time away from their phone by disabling all but the most essential apps.

Emerging new devices

Palm lives up to its name with a soon-to-be launched tiny, palm-sized phone that’s meant to give users a break from their main smartphone. It’s a smartphone companion, that operates on the same phone number and is linked to the customer’s primary phone. The Palm features a “Life Mode” that silences texts, alerts and notifications until the user turns on the screen. While the phone has the same capabilities as their bigger predecessor, it is meant to be used sparingly, while the user’s main smartphone is left at home.

A tech company called Light is raising money on Indiegogo for the second iteration of its Light device, the Light Phone 2. It’s a simple, stripped-down smartphone that offers a few essential tools such as calling and messaging and excludes social media and other distracting apps. The company’s Indiegogo page states, “As humans, we are vulnerable and our smartphones are engineered to use these vulnerabilities against us. This is why we’ve intentionally designed a phone to be used as little as possible.”

A device like Palm or Light Phone 2 that forces consumers to spend less time scrolling by eliminating social and news feeds could offer drastic moves that help consumers truly switch off.

Finally, there’s NoPhone, a laughable alternative to the smartphone that looks like a phone but is actually just a chunk of plastic. Fans of Shark Tank may remember watching the founders pitch their product to the sharks. (Spoiler alert: the sharks did not bite.)

What we think

As explored in the Mintel Trend, ‘Switch Off,’ the counter-movement of consumers making an effort to carve out tech-free moments has influenced brands to find creative ways to encourage offline interactions and technology breaks. Internet providers are also offering better visibility into time spent on the internet by making more tools available to set limits. A device like Palm or Light Phone 2 that forces consumers to spend less time scrolling by eliminating social and news feeds could offer drastic moves that help consumers truly switch off. For a true disconnection, a cultural shift would be required, where employers stop expecting employees to be available around the clock and people don’t pull out their phones during mundane moments such as waiting in line or on public transportation.

It is encouraging to see that some tech companies are trying to help people detach from mindless scrolling and participate actively in non-digital life. Brands across the tech and internet space will continue to bear significant responsibility to provide tools and encouragement for their customers to disconnect. Efforts designed to achieve this end will help these brands build and maintain trust.