What Americans Love and Hate About Their Phones in 2020

Info graphic showing sentiment toward various phone topics.

Nearly all Americans (86%) own a cell phone of some kind—but do our phones give us warm, fuzzy feelings of love or cold and confusing ways to communicate?1

We surveyed Americans above the age 18 about their favorite and least favorite aspects of cell phones, pulling out the extremes of love and hate.

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first because, for the most part, Americans love using their phones. The average percentage of “hate” responses across all ages was below 10% for all but the three categories we’ll talk about, whereas the average percentage of “love” responses across each topic ranged from 16% (for in-app purchases) to 45% (for emojis).2

What America hates about phones

We can feel grateful to have the most incredible mass communication devices known to history,  but there are a few things that Americans don’t love about using their phones:

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  • 1 in 5 Americans hate TikTok videos.
  • 20% of Americans hate automated phone menus.
  • Men hate emojis 3.5x more than women and hate GIFs 3x more too.

TikTok, please stop

One in five Americans hate TikTok videos. Is it the dancing, the irreverent Gen Z humor? That small group won’t be happy to hear Trump’s executive order trying to ban TikTok (in favor of American counterparts like Triller) probably won’t happen.3

American Sentiment Toward TikTok Videos
Love TikTok VideosLike TikTok VideosFeel Neutral About TikTok VideosDislike TikTok VideosHate TikTok Videos
Percentage of Respondents19.40%16.60%24.00%19.60%20.40%
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After facing an American ban, TikTok has partnered with Oracle Corp. as a domestic partner. But with 40% of America either disliking or outright hating TikTok videos, it’s uncertain whether this partnership will pay off in the long-run.

Don’t make me listen to a recording

America hates automated phone menus about as much as TikTok. What’s the point of calling if you’re going to have to wait through menus you could typically click through online faster?

We understand how automated calls prevent unnecessary conversations (and save call centers a lot of money) in the long run, but we’re used to instant gratification.

Bro, emojis aren’t cool

On average, men hate emojis 3.5x more than women (and they hate GIFs 3x more too). Men, whatever emoji rules you live by, you can probably ease up on the hate.

It’s not all about the haterade, though. Americans are more likely to love the things about their cell phones that make it easier to connect with each other or make their phones more useful.

What Americans love about cell phones

There’s a lot more to love when it comes to using our cell phones than there is to hate. Here’s what Americans love about their phones:

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  • Roughly 45% of Americans are in love with emojis.
  • More men than women (33% more) love group texts.
  • 1 in 5 Americans love app notifications.
  • 18% of America loves in-app purchases.

Nearly half of American love emojis

Even though guys don’t love emojis as much as gals, 45% of Americans love emojis, and emojis were the most loved cell phone topic above the age of 35. Whether you are adding a smiley or an eye roll emoji to your “Sounds great!” makes a big difference, so it makes sense people love adding them into their conversations.

Strength in numbers

Group texts were the most loved cell phone feature in the 18–24 age range, and 33% more men than women love group texting. The 54-and-older crowd didn’t love group texting, but they didn’t exactly hate it.

Let me know, please

One in five Americans loves app notifications, which may be surprising for those who turn our phones on silent and leave them in another room. But notifications can be helpful reminders, a text from your favorite person, or a warning that you’ve spent too much time on Instagram.

Purchasing power with your phone

As many as 18% of Americans love in-app purchases, which can be a quick way to get what you want without jumping to another browser or to buy items and upgrades in a game—just be careful not to spend all your money on Clash of Clans.

What Americans love and hate most

Depending on your age, you probably love different aspects of using your cell phone. We separated the different age groups to find their most loved and hated phone-related features.

Most Loved and Hated Phone Subjects by Age
AgeMost LovedMost Hated
18-24Group TextsLeaving a Voicemail
25-34GIFsAutomated Phone Menus
35-44EmojisAutomated Phone Menus
45-54EmojisTikTok Videos
>54EmojisTikTok Videos

The younger folks love group texts and GIFs, but people over the age of 35 love emojis. Automated phone menus and TikTok videos stand out as what Americans hate the most about using their cell phones.

Cell phone hate over the ages

In just about every category, the hatred for phone activities goes up with age. It’s been 13 years since the first iPhone came out, and about 20 years since cell phones first connected to the internet for mass use. That means anyone around roughly the age of 35 or younger grew up with cell phones becoming commonplace.

Studies in both the US4 and the UK5 suggest that there are many reasons why there’s a technology gap with older generations, such as apprehension, cost, lack of guidance, and poor accessibility, which could explain some of the hate.

Graph showing hatred for TikTok videos
Graph Showing Hatred for Group Texts
Graph Showing Hatred Toward Taking Phone Calls
Graph Showing Hatred Toward GIFs by Age
Graph Showing Hatred Toward Emojis
Graph showing hatred for voicemails

Taking phone calls and leaving voicemails are the only phone experiences that younger Americans hate more than older Americans do. Even though it’s not their favorite thing, younger folks should leave a voicemail to remind their parents and grandparents that they care about them—they’d love it.

Americans will keep using their cell phones, but they have a mixed relationship with cell phone culture. Our advice? Use your phone on your terms, protect yourself, and remember to get some time away from the screen.

Methodology

Reviews.org surveyed 500 Americans above the age of 18 in July of 2020 and asked them to share their sentiments toward various phone topics, features, and experiences. We then segmented this data by age group and highlighted the respondents who indicated they loved or hated a given topic.

Given our sample size, the margin of error is ± 4% at a confidence level of 95%.

Sources

  1. Pew Research, “Mobile Fact Sheet,” June 12, 2019. Accessed August 17, 2020.
  2. Reviews.org Proprietary Survey Conducted via Pollfish July 18, 2020. Accessed August 13, 2020.
  3. Scott Galloway, Business Insider, “Why TikTok Is Unlikely to Be Banned in the US, Despite Plenty of US Apps Being Banned in China” August 14, 2020. Accessed August 17, 2020.
  4. Michael Pearson, Phys.org, “Mobile Phone Accessibility Improves, but Gaps Remain, Study Finds,” February 13, 2019.
  5. Eleftheria Vaportzis, Maria Giatsi Clausen, and Alan J. Gow, NCBI, “Older Adults Perceptions of Technology and Barriers to Interacting with Tablet Computers: A Focus Group Study,” October 4, 2017. Accessed August 17, 2020.