What Indian smartphone users want: an insight into their digital behaviour

Digital choices are primarily governed by the need for convenience, gratification, and affordability.

We met people from diverse backgrounds — farmers, students, private employees, blue-collar workers, business owners, homemakers, and unemployed people during our studies. When we wanted to understand the main purpose of smartphones, most of the people we met used their mobile phones for entertainment and communication purposes. Using smartphones for informal learning through news and online channels on platforms like YouTube featured high on the users’ list.

Entertainment as the most comforting offering

Across all tiers, entertainment is the hottest industry with social media and video streaming platforms leading the way in app usage. The reasons are countless on why people need entertainment. Kids watch cartoons to see their animated friends; students watch TV shows and movies to take a break from their tiring studies; employed adults want an escape from the drudgery of real, everyday life through OTT platforms; unemployed ones want a pastime; old ones want an escape from loneliness, and the list goes on.

The positive gratifications from the digital immersion

Individuals enjoy digital immersion akin to reading a book where they transport themselves in the world of the characters they are watching and feel a sense of connectedness with their journeys and experience their emotions — this is also called the flow experience.

The more the merrier, the cheaper the better

Users prefer to use platforms from which they can reap multiple benefits.

Choice of language and method to communicate are defined based on the context.

We learnt that people increasingly use Hinglish in their communication and when writing any texts in informal spaces, they use the Anglo-Saxon script. Across locations, there is a sharp rise and comfort in mixing languages in communication — spoken and written word. Communication context often also helps decide the language of choice. For instance, in formal settings, regardless of one’s prowess in the language, users try to communicate in English — even if it is using just words and phrases, not complete sentences. With their peers and inner circle, choosing the language of comfort becomes a convenient way of communicating — Hindi or their first language. Using audio recorded messages to send long pieces of information also has become a convenient and easy way to communicate rather than typing. At UCC, the topic of language fascinates us endlessly, and we will continue to uncover and learn more about this and share our learnings.

Affordability beats quality among the basic users while quality beats affordability for premium users.

Ashok Kumar(28), a painter in Alwar, Rajasthan recently bought Vivo S1 Pro costing ₹18k. He has installed a handful of apps that he uses for communication, social media, video sharing, digital payments, and a couple of gaming apps too. For Ashok, his phone is a tool for happiness. On his favourite app Facebook, he chats with his old friends and watches videos, which according to him, gives positive thoughts. His taste in movies has grown beyond Bollywood and reached South India. He shares his phone with his family and friends. His wife and kids use Facebook and watch short videos on his phone. His entire inner circle gets the benefit of the digital experience.

In the digital payments and m-commerce sector, trust, ease of use, and fast services are critical factors when choosing a product or service.

While more tier 1 cities users choose Paytm, PhonePe and Google Pay are preferred in smaller cities and villages. Paytm’s user base catapulted from 140 million in October 2016 to 270 million in November 2017, and demonetization could have been a reason for this growth in the user base. On the other hand, the pace of digitisation of payments was slower in lower tiers and villages. By that time, the competition got rigorous with Google’s Tez and the Flipkart-backed PhonePe. The trust factor from the brands of Google and Flipkart made its way into towns and villages. Amazon ensured deeper reach in smaller locations through tie-up with India Post.

To sum it up

American entrepreneur Aaron Levie introduced the concept of “convenience economy” to describe the trend of Uber-like businesses which place convenience at its core. Aaron Levie in 2014 said, “The last 100+ years of economics taught us that price drives demand. Now we’re learning that convenience drives it even more’’. His vision of a boom for convenience economy has already happened, and the users have become habituated to convenience.



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Shipra Bhutada

Shipra Bhutada


Shipra is the Founder & User Research Director at User Connect Consultancy.