Rebecca Huntley Columnist

Rebecca is a director of The Mind & Mood Report, an author and social commentator with a background in publishing, academia and politics. She holds degrees in law and film studies and a PhD in Gender Studies.

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Our essential device: wallets holding out, but mobiles gain ground

Published 21 June 2013 08:17, Updated 24 June 2013 06:00

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Our essential device: wallets holding out, but mobiles gain ground

The majority of Australians would still take their wallet over their mobile, but the trend is much less marked among those under 35. Photo: Andrew Quilty

Eight years ago, I wrote a book about Generation Y in which young Australians expressed their deep love for and attachment to their mobile phones (remember this was before that unimaginable time: pre-smartphones). For them, the mobile phone was not just a piece of technology but an expression of self, an essential device for living, representing freedom and flexibility.

“You contain your personality in your phone,” said Daniel, a 19-year-old student. To 23-year-old Jackie, her phone was “like my right arm”. They could see a time in which the phone was the most important item in their life, the only thing they absolutely needed when they left the house for a night out.

Fast-forward a few years and research we did on smartphones in 2010 shows that many of us – not just the young among us – feel as if the mobile is also a corporeal object. “How undressed do you feel if you don’t have your phone? It’s like a piece of clothing these days”.

We are getting closer to a “phone first” reality now. But we are not quite there yet.

A recent global study by Ipsos showed that if given the choice between their wallet and their smartphone, 68 per cent of us would choose the wallet. Compare this to the global average of 60 per cent.

However, those Aussies under 35 years of age were split in this decision, with 52 per cent choosing their wallets over the smart devices.

So change is coming then.

Just because most of us would opt for our wallet over our phone, if forced to make the choice, it shouldn’t stop companies of all types from working out how to maximise the ability of the mobile to be our essential device.

Loyalty and store-card details on your phone are just the start. When will we see the ability for us to swipe our phone across a smart device in the store and pay with it as we would swipe our credit card?