Consumers benefit from virtual experiences but are concerned about tech fatigue and security

People using a variety of devices.
Image: Adobe Stock

People are resilient and have gained mastery over their digital lives, optimizing the devices they use and adjusting the balance between their virtual and physical worlds. But a new report from Deloitte finds that the plethora of devices—and the work involved in managing them—is resulting in ongoing issues of tech fatigue and screen overload.

Twenty-four percent of consumers said they’re overwhelmed by the devices and subscriptions they need to manage, down from 32% last year. For smart home technology, 27% of users reported these devices add too much complexity to their lives.

Consumers also have concerns about data security and privacy, including the potential for location data to be monitored, according to the report.

This has resulted in a slight drop in devices. While U.S. households remain filled with technology devices in 2022, on average, they now have a total of 22 connected devices, down from 25 in 2021.

More than half of those surveyed are worried about the security vulnerability of their smartphones (54%) and smart home devices (52%); 40% of users are concerned about data security on their smartwatches and fitness trackers.

“Technology companies, device makers, app developers, and telcos all have an opportunity to help consumers optimize their devices and connectivity and enjoy better virtual experiences,’’ the report said. “Companies that can do this while giving consumers greater transparency and control over data security and privacy may be able to gain an edge over the competition.”

Virtual remains a constant

Remote experiences endure even as pandemic effects ease with 45% of surveyed consumers saying one or more household members were working from home at least some of the time (down from 55% in 2021), and 23% reporting one or more household members were attending school from home at least some of the time (down from 43% in 2021).

Virtual health care appointments remain popular, with 49% of surveyed consumers saying they’ve attended at least one virtual medical appointment as a patient in the past year, according to the report.

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Consumers look to “master their digital worlds”

This year, fewer people are working and learning from home, leaving some homes less crowded and reducing pressure on people, devices, and networks. Consumers are striking a balance between the virtual and the physical; they’re optimizing the devices they use and choosing to move forward with the virtual experiences they like best.

Over the past year, 15% of consumers with home internet upgraded their home internet services to achieve higher speeds and 44% purchased “signal boosters” like Wi-Fi extenders and mesh network equipment to increase coverage throughout the house. A vast majority of these (87%) reported that their new equipment improved Wi-Fi performance.

Among those who use smart home devices, 68% say the technology helps them feel safer. Among those with a smart thermostat, 69% say their device helps reduce their energy costs.

Consumers seek apps and experiences specially designed for 5G

For consumers who are considering their next smartphone purchase, 5G ranks as the third most-important feature, behind battery life and data storage. 5G is the second-most important motivator for the 24% of respondents who are likely to switch mobile providers in the next year (behind “better value for the money”).

Sixty-eight percent of respondents with smartphones less than a year-old report they have 5G capability (up from 56% of respondents in 2021).

Forty-eight percent of 5G smartphone users said the service exceeds their expectations, and another 45% say it meets their expectations.

However, 73% of 5G smartphone users report wanting a better understanding of what new things they can do with 5G, and 30% are disappointed by a perceived lack of innovative apps and services leveraging 5G.

Work-from-home has decreased but remains important

In 2022, remote work decreased but remains significant. Forty-five percent of surveyed consumers said one or more household members were working from home at least some of the time, down from 55% in 2021, and 47% of employed adults reported they have worked from home personally at least some of the time over the past year.

Those with remote working experiences strongly prefer to have virtual or hybrid options for the future.

Ninety-nine percent of those who have been working from home during the past year said they appreciated aspects of the experience. The benefits they valued most were the lack of commute, enhanced comfort, reduced chance of illness, better focus, and improved family connections.

More than eight in 10 remote workers said their family relationships, professional relationships, and physical and mental well-being have improved or remained the same.

Seventy-six percent of employed adults who worked from home during the past year prefer virtual or hybrid options for the future, while only 21% want to work mostly or completely in person.

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Concerns about security, privacy, tech fatigue

While consumers feel their devices and virtual experiences are having a positive effect on their lives, there are still some concerns around privacy, controlling screen time and dealing with tech complexity.

Security and privacy are top of mind

Fifty percent of respondents are worried about security breaches (e.g., hackers stealing personal data) and 41% are concerned about being spied on through their devices. Nearly half (49%) of smart home users are concerned about hackers “taking over” their smart devices (for instance, changing thermostat settings).

Tech fatigue remains an issue

One-quarter (24%) of consumers said they are overwhelmed by the devices and subscriptions they need to manage—down from 32% last year. For smart home technology, 27% of users reported that these devices add too much complexity to their lives.

“What we’ve gleaned from this year’s Connectivity and Mobile Trends survey is that consumers are gaining mastery over their digital lives—they are more intentional about which activities they want to take part in virtually and deciding those that are better suited for being there in person,’’ said Paul Silverglate, vice chair, Deloitte LLP and U.S. technology sector leader, in a statement. “Some of the virtual and digital necessities people experienced actually had positive impacts on family, education, and health and fitness, juxtaposed against the need for stronger security and data privacy, which will ultimately create additional demand for technology companies.”

The third edition of Deloitte’s 2022 Connectivity and Mobile Trends surveyed 2,005 U.S. consumers conducted in the first quarter of 2022, the firm said.

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