Pocket-Perfect Personal Devices

Digging through the online conversation about smartphones and wearables

It’s hard to believe, but smartphones haven’t been around forever. In fact, it’s been less than two decades. But, over that time, smartphones have become ubiquitous, incredibly powerful and, most importantly, completely indispensable for consumers. No longer just devices to help people connect with each other or surf the web, smartphones now do almost everything — from fitness tracking and payment processing to games and videos.

So how have consumer preferences and expectations for smartphones changed over this period. Quite a bit.

In this post, we analyze the online conversation about smartphones and wearables to better understand:

  • The evolution of the smartphone discussion
  • The most wanted features
  • The pain points of wearables


Consumers are vocal about what they want from their smartphones and wearables, sharing their experiences with those devices, writing reviews, and crowdsourcing answers. By analyzing the online conversation, brands can make adjustments to features and designs to better suit consumer needs.


This evolution is reflected in the topics consumers talk about when discussing smartphones.

This change is reflected in the topic wheels from 2010 and 2017. In 2010, the discussion focused on early iPhone models like the iPhone 4. Back then, video calling was hailed as near-revolutionary. People were in awe of HD video and touchscreen. As for iPhone competitors, Blackberry and Nokia were extremely trendy. Seven years later, much has changed. The main competitor to iPhone models are Samsung Galaxy models. Now, touchscreens are standard and smartwatch integration is the next big thing.

The features are what make a phone worth a purchase. Consumers value a high quality camera. Phones with a high quality camera are in demand, as social media becomes increasingly visual. Basic photography skills, a phone camera, and a couple editing apps are all one needs to produce high quality photos which can then be shared on the Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, or Twitter apps. Battery is the second most discussed feature, with consumers craving a reliable phone that does not shut down after a few hours of use. Speed is another key component: a fast phone that doesn’t freeze makes phone use more seamless. Touchscreen is still significant in the features discussion, but its share of voice has greatly diminished since 2010, as touchscreens are becoming the norm.

Smartphones now have a companion: wearables. The Apple Watch integrates with the iPhone, but many other wearables like FitBit are also compatible with mobile devices.


When it comes to the discussion about wearables, the discussion levels peaked in 2015, when companies scrambled in FitBit’s wake, trying to produce sleek devices that help consumers assess their sleeping habits, number of steps taken, and more. While the number of online posts about wearables has decreased since reaching a peak in 2015, people are anything but weary. In fact, they hold strong opinions about the data-tracking devices worn on the wrist.

Wearables Negative Sentiment Word Cloud

A significant part of the conversation is negative. Negativity is primarily driven by data security concerns, as wearables need to harvest personal and sensitive data to work. Consumers fear that this data tracking can verge on obsession, making wearables devices that fuel unhealthy attitudes toward health, an unintended effect for brands and manufacturers. They also point out design flaws in wearables, deeming certain models clunky and inefficient.


Clearly, personal devices have wormed their way into consumers’ hands, and hearts, as dependency grows. In such a short period of the time, high consumer adoption of personal devices have turned personal devices from a “nice to have” to a “need to have.” It is not just the growth of personal device ownership and conversation that is staggering; the dramatic change that occurred in fewer than 10 years demonstrates that consumer preferences shift like the wind.

But like we saw with the negativity in the wearables conversation, brands should pay close attention to what resonates with consumers and what doesn’t. While the conversation may be growing for one type of personal device (smartphones), no brand (including smartphone brands) should squarely place their bets that every type of device or every model will continue on that trajectory. By looking at the online conversation, brands can instantly see examples of consumer pain points and consequently address product flaws to address them.

For more on how consumer electronics brands can uncover consumer insights from online conversations, download our report: Consumer Electronics Industry Trend Report

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