Cell Phone Behavior in 2021: How Obsessed Are We?

On average, Americans check their phones 262 times per day

Trevor Wheelwright
TV, Streaming, & Internet Expert
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Published on April 21, 2021
5 min read

Do you feel the hypnotic glow of your cell phone pulling you in every time you receive a notification? Do you feel uneasy when your mobile screen stays dark, so you just have to check to make sure you didn’t miss anything?

You’re not alone. On average, Americans check their phones 262 times per day—that’s once every 5.5 minutes!

In the land of unlimited data plans and stupefying smartphones, we surveyed Americans 18 and older about their phone-related behaviors to see how far we’ve fallen into our screens.

How do your cell phone habits stack up against the rest of the US?

Most Americans spend their mornings, days, and nights with cell phones

Graphic including statistics about phone usage and addiction.

From the moment they wake up to the time they go to sleep, Americans stay glued to their phones. They’ll even resort to texting someone in the same room instead of talking to them.

  • 83% of Americans use their phone as an alarm clock.
  • 80% of Americans say they check their phones within the first 10 minutes of waking up.
  • 62% say they sleep with their phone at night.
  • Americans spend an average of 50 minutes on their phones before bed.
  • 67% say they have texted someone in the same room as them before.

Nearly half of Americans consider themselves addicted to cell phones

  • 43% say that their phone is their most valuable possession.
  • 83% of Americans feel uneasy leaving their phone at home.
  • 54% of people say they panic when their cell phone battery goes below 20%.
  • 41% of Americans say they experience stress or anxiety less than 30 minutes after misplacing their phone.
  • 52% say that they have never gone longer than 24 hours without their cell phone.
  • 46% say that having another person use their phone causes them anxiety or stress.

Despite dangerous driving or deflated dates, most people can’t stand to set aside their handheld communication companions for more than a moment

  • 40% use or look at their phone while driving.
  • 47% use or look at their phone while on a date.
  • 70% use their phone on the toilet

But are cell phones really that great? In our survey, 41% of respondents say they’d rather give up sex for a year rather than give up their phone for a year. And 46% say they spend more time on their cell phone than with their significant other.

They say where you spend your time is where you spend your love, so what does that say about us?

Most Americans spend their mornings, days, and nights with cell phones

Americans Spend 3 Hours 19 Minutes on Phones Each Day

We like to think of our cell phones as communication devices that help us chat and connect with the world. However, most people spend most of their time scrolling social media, playing games, or using other apps. Phone calls and texting only accounted for just over a half-hour of our daily cell phone activity.

Will we break out of our endless cell phone cycles? Probably not

  • 31% say that they feel it’s important to have the latest model of a cell phone
  • 47% have upgraded their phone within the last year.
  • 23% say they’ve gone into debt purchasing a cell phone.
  • 25% of Americans say they’d wait in line for longer than an hour to purchase a new phone.

Although it’s hard to say how or when humans can strike a balance between their screen time and their offline time, it doesn’t look like we’re fighting off our cell phone cravings any time soon.

But if you’re going to stay stuck to your screen, you might as well make sure you have the best cell phone plan for you. Luckily, we can help:

Curious how our phone habits have changed over the past year? Check out our 2020 report below!

2021 Methodology

Reviews.org surveyed 1,000 Americans aged 18 and older to determine their sentiments toward cell phone usage.

We also asked respondents to refer to their phone’s screen time report to determine the average number of times per day they check their phones and how much time in total they spend on their phones per day.

Cell Phone Behavior in 2020: Statistics and Usage

Do you know who’s the most common culprit of the proverbial “You up?” text? No, it’s not your desperate ex—it’s your phone itself!

How many times have you been trying to fall asleep when suddenly you hear your phone cut through the silence with a notification? You think to yourself, “No, I’ll just check it in the morning,” but then you start to wonder what it could be. Could it be a monumental sports trade? A confession of love from your crush? Maybe Mario needs you to save the Mushroom Kingdom in Super Mario Run?

  • 79.5% use their phone as an alarm clock.
  • 87.8% feel uneasy leaving their phone at home.
  • 55.4% use or look at their phone while driving.
  • 75.4% consider themselves addicted to their phones.
  • 65.6% check their phones up to 160 times per day.
  • 57.4% say they use their phone on dates.
  • 64.2% have texted someone in the same room as them.
  • 60.6% have upgraded their phone in the last year.

2020 Smartphone Addiction Statistics

Our phones are constantly asking us, “You up?” And more often than not, we are up. According to our survey, over 65% of people sleep with their phones. For some people, their phone can end up being the only thing they sleep with—45% of folks say they would rather give up sex than their cell phone for a year. Perhaps Flappy Bird will keep them warm at night.

45% of people would rather give up sex for a year over their cell phone

On the other hand, considering 32% of survey respondents say they spend more time on their phones than they do with their significant others, maybe they won’t have to worry about giving up sex. That will probably just come naturally.

32.7% of people spend more time on their phones than with their significant other

So, with whom will you spend most of your time this year? Your ever-loyal smartphone or an actual person? Don’t worry, there’s no shame here—we love our phones too.

How many people use or look at their phones while driving?
  • 7.4% said they “always” use or look at their phone while driving.
  • 48% said they “sometimes” use or look at their phone while driving.
  • 35.2% said they “never” use or look at their phone while driving.
  • 9.4% said they “don’t drive.”
How many people consider themselves addicted to their phone?
  • 24.6% said they consider themselves “not at all” addicted to their phone.
  • 56.4% said they consider themselves “somewhat” addicted to their phone.
  • 19% said they consider themselves “very” addicted to their phone.

Additional Findings

  • 17.3% of parents said they spend more time on their phones than with their children.
  • The average price an American would have to be paid to trade-in their current phone for a flip phone without "smart" features is $2,150.20.
  • 36% said they would be willing to go without their phone for “one week or less” if it meant they could erase all of their debt.
  • 58% reported that they spend over three hours on their phone each day.
  • 45% said the private information on their phones (photos, contact information, text messages, apps, etc.) was worth less than $500 to them.


We all have some kind of a love affair with our smartphones. We pour our time, energy, and love into our devices, and isn’t that a definition of love? Thankfully, most people accept being in an open relationship with their partner and their smartphones. As long as people don't look at their phones while driving and balance time between smartphone use and real-person interaction, there’s no reason why we can’t keep this beautiful thing going.

2020 Methodology

We conducted an anonymous survey of 500 men and women over the age of 18 regarding sentiments about cellphone usage, their personal cell phone habits, and how highly they value time spent with their phones as compared to time spent performing other activities. Using the responses from our survey, we have highlighted the most common answers in this report.

Trevor Wheelwright
Written by
Trevor Wheelwright
Trevor’s written about YMYL (your money, your life) topics for over six years across editorial publications and retail/eCommerce sites. His work’s been featured on Forbes, RealSimple, USA Today, MSN, BusinessInsider, Entrepreneur, PCMag, and CNN. When he’s not researching and writing, you can find him around Salt Lake City, Utah, snapping photos of mountains and architecture or seeking out some good tunes and friendly faces.

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