Americans are already a hyper-connected, device-fixated lot. And as 5G takes flight in 2020 and beyond, the number of internet-connected screens in U.S. consumers’ lives will only increase, according to a new study.
Today, U.S. households own an average of 11 connected devices, including seven with screens to view content (e.g. smartphones or TVs), a study from Deloitte found. Going forward, the rollout of 5G across the U.S. by AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile will produce “a significant increase in connected devices,” said Kevin Westcott, vice chairman and U.S. telecom and media and entertainment leader at Deloitte.
Once 5G is widely deployed, “we’re going to see an explosion of connected devices in the home — and in your car and on your body,” Westcott said.
According to Deloitte’s inaugural “Connectivity and Mobile Trends Survey,” 67% of consumers said that when 5G is available they would be more likely to upgrade to a 5G-compatible smartphone. Note that Apple currently doesn’t sell any iPhones that support 5G, but the tech giant is expected to join the fray in 2020. In addition, 62% of consumers said they will likely replace their home internet with 5G service if it delivers speeds equivalent to those of cable or fiber broadband.
“5G, we believe, will be transformational, and it will transform not just telcos and entertainment but a lot of industries because of its instantaneous connectivity,” Westcott said.
In addition to providing higher connectivity speeds, 5G promises better coverage and reliability and lower latency (faster response times). Per Deloitte’s survey, 43% of consumers said they currently face issues when watching videos on their smartphone while 41% feel their mobile data speeds are not fast enough.
5G also should drive up usage of other mobile applications — specifically, next-generation, on-the-go entertainment. More than 40% of Gen Z consumers said they expect to play more mobile video games once they have 5G, while nearly 35% of Gen Z and millennial Americans said access to 5G will change how they use augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), according to Deloitte’s study.
“One of the technologies that 5G will start to unleash is VR, because it provides more real-time access,” Westcott said. But right now, he said, “We don’t know what the next round of innovation will be when we deploy 5G.” Wearable computing devices, like smart glasses, after languishing for the past few years could become more popular with 5G access, for example.
For telcos and smartphone makers, 5G could help address the issue of longer smartphone refresh cycles. Currently, nearly one-third of U.S. consumers have a smartphone that is two years or older, and fewer than 60% of consumers said they plan to buy a new smartphone in the next two years, Deloitte’s study found. “We are seeing 5G as a driving factor getting people to consider upgrading their phones,” said Westcott.
At the same time, broad adoption of 5G might fuel an increase in people who are addicted to smartphones by making it even faster to get online. Already, U.S. consumers check their phones an average of 96 times per day — up 20% over the last two years, according to a survey conducted in August 2019 by Asurion, a provider of device insurance, warranty and support services.
Of course, smartphones aren’t the only devices 5G will touch. Deloitte expects the next-gen wireless technology to spur adoption of home automation and control devices into mass adoption. Per the firm’s survey, 62% of home automation users rank 5G’s potential to offer better connectivity in the home as one of the top three capabilities likely to drive them to use 5G.
Deloitte’s study also asked consumers about data privacy. The vast majority of respondents — 91% — said they believe they should be able to control, edit and delete personal data that platforms collect about them. While 72% indicated that they are more aware now of how their data is collected and used than a year ago, just 52% agreed that the value they get from free online services outweighs their privacy and security concerns.
For the study, Deloitte enlisted research firm Ipsos, which surveyed 2,003 U.S. consumers 14 and older in September 2019.