Millennials, whom the Pew Research Center defines as the generation born between 1981 and 1996, are in headlines everywhere for their tendency to stay glued to their smartphones, share the details of their lives via social networks and messaging apps, and make or break the next hot app. But even tech-obsessed millennials don’t love every piece of technology equally. Read on to learn about a few of the tech products and platforms that millennials don’t like — and are probably replacing with something newer, faster, and more mobile.
1. Dumb phones
A recent Pew report found that 85% of Americans ages 18 to 29 own a smartphone. Among young adults, a smartphone is considered an essential because it enables users to complete all kinds of tasks that the typical “dumb” or feature phone isn’t up to.
This is everything from the basics of easily accessing the Internet or checking email inboxes to an array of other tasks, like sending emojis to friends, exchanging GIFs via Facebook Messenger, sharing videos on Snapchat, uploading photos to Instagram, getting turn-by-turn driving directions, streaming videos, and playing an endless rotation of games that get progressively more advanced (and addictive).
But last year, Laura Stampler reported for Time that a minority of millennials still uses flip phones and other feature phones — and most of these users aren’t itching to upgrade to a smartphone anytime soon. Forrester Research found that 15% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 13% of 25- to 34-year-olds didn’t use a smartphone as their main phones in 2014.
A few feature phone users whom Stampler interviewed cited email, Facebook, and a connection to the Internet as a distraction. Others noted that smartphones can cost hundreds of dollars, and anyone with a data plan knows how expensive they can get (versus a “basically free” flip phone that costs a lot less each month). And because you can do less on a dumb phone, its battery life is likely to last longer than, say, that of an iPhone 6.
Michael S. Rosenwald recently reported for The Washington Post that “Digital natives prefer reading in print.” Textbook makers, bookstore owners, and groups that conduct surveys of college students all say that millennials strongly prefer to read printed books rather than e-books for both leisure and learning — a preference that’s somewhat surprising, given millennials’ tendency to consume most other content digitally.
A study of digital textbooks at the University of Washington found that a quarter of students purchased the print version of e-textbooks that were given for free, and Naomi S. Baron, an American University linguist, says that some of the drawbacks of reading e-books are that people tend to skim the content they read on screens, distractions are inevitable, and comprehension suffers when reading an e-book versus a printed book. Rosenwald noted that Pew reports show the highest print readership rates are among people ages 18 to 29.
On college campuses across the country, students still carry backpacks weighed down by a semester’s worth of textbooks, even though, as Rosenwald points out, they increasingly use laptops to take notes (and check Facebook) during lectures. Readers of print books can remember the location of information by the page and text layout — which researchers think plays a key role in boosting reading comprehension — but it’s more difficult to remember text in the same way when reading on a screen.
The time the typical user devotes to reading online is spent on scanning and skimming, and the behaviors we establish when reading an article online can extend to our reading patterns when working through long texts onscreen.
3. Landline phones
Further reinforcing the idea that the smartphone is a millennial’s lifeline is the data that show few millennials have a landline at home. Catherine Clifford reported for Entrepreneur last summer that approximately two-thirds of millennials live in a wireless-phone-only house, according to the National Health Interview Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Among adults ages 25 to 29, 66% reported living in a house without a landline, while 60% in the 30 to 34 age group live in a house without a landline. The survey found that the percentage of millennials living in homes without landlines is higher than for adults in the U.S. overall, with approximately 41% of households nationwide going landline-free.
The survey also found a correlation between the tendency toward living in house without a landline and whether a home was rented or owned by the resident. Sixty-two percent of of adults living in rented homes had only wireless service, while only 29% of adults living in a home owned by a resident lived in wireless-only homes. (Interestingly enough, numerous sources have noted that millennials tend to rent and put off purchasing a home longer than members of previous generations.)
4. Online advertising
To be fair, no one likes online ads. But it seems that millennials like them least of all. Marketers are increasingly reporting that millennials don’t respond well to traditional online marketing strategies, and Nora Ganim Barnes, director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, recently wrote for eMarketer that millennials are “adept at filtering out ads.”
She wrote: “They seem to have been able to filter out advertising and commercial messages on social platforms across the board. They want to pick and choose what they want, and how they want it, and when they want it. Our studies seem to indicate that word-of-mouth is driving most of what we’re seeing in terms of purchasing.”
Millennials trust their friends — or, increasingly, their “friends” on social networks and the influencers they follow online — more than the manufacturers or providers of products when they’re looking for information prior to making a purchase. To reach millennials, many brands are eschewing traditional forms of online advertising and instead turning to the content creators whom young consumers already trust.
Ad Week’s Michelle Castillo reports that online videos, for example, are well-suited to an increasingly mobile audience that’s watching less TV and demanding shorter clips.
Maker Studios Chief Content Officer Erin McPherson told Ad Week that “The new authority is authenticity,” and because native content by their favorite content creators is perceived as trustworthy, millennials are more likely to consider its merits — and the merits of the brand that the content creator is working with — than to dismiss it as an ad.
5. Traditional television
Many millennials like watching TV, but as Venture Beat’s Tom Cheredar reported last year, they “really like watching TV on anything other than a TV.” Forty-four percent of millennials at the time watched TV on desktop computers, and 49% on tablets. And a full 31% of millennials watch TV on a smartphone, which is surprising given the smaller screen size.
A recent article by eMarketer reported that 61% of the time that millennials spend watching TV was time-shifted, versus the less than 40% that was spent viewing live content. For comparison’s sake, the time spent watching time-shifted and live content was relatively even for the general population.
The demand for time-shifted and on-demand content is fueling a battle between cable TV and providers like Netflix. Research in October found that usage of cable TV and Netflix to watch TV or digital video content was just about even among millennial smartphone and tablet users. Millennials prefer to be able to watch content at a time that’s convenient for them.
Jacob Davidson reported last summer that the average American consumes 71% of his or her media on television, according to data by Nielsen. But for people ages 14 to 24, that proportion drops to just 46%, with the bulk of media being consumed on phones, tablets, and PCs. And adults younger than 35 account for a full 44% of “zero TV” households.
Millennials are over voicemail, as Rachel Rood reported for NPR’s All Tech Considered late last year. Fewer people than ever are actually leaving each other voicemails, and many millennials won’t even listen to the ones that their friends do leave them.
Many would rather just get a text or a Facebook message because they think that voicemail is too consuming thanks to accidental “butt-dials” and the rambling messages that some users leave. When they enter the business world, many are forced to adapt, even when they feel that voicemail is a time waster and obsolete.
Jane Buckingham, a trend analyst at Trendera, told Rood that in moving away from voicemail in their personal lives, millennials are just doing what works for them by choosing the methods of communication that are most practical for their lifestyles:
Everyone criticizes the millennials for being the “me” generation and being so entitled. I don’t think they’re so entitled. I think they’re just incredibly pragmatic. So for them if a voicemail isn’t practical — which most of the time it isn’t — and there’s a more practical way of delivering the same information, they’re gonna go for that.
7. Websites that aren’t mobile-optimized
When you’re constantly accessing and browsing the Internet from your smartphone, websites really need to play nice with smaller screens. So it’s no wonder that smartphone-dependent millennials notice when websites aren’t mobile-optimized. A report from eMarketer last year noted that millennials are driving demand for smartphone-friendly websites.
Nearly 90% of millennial smartphone owners surveyed said their phones never left their side, and 80% admitted that they instantly reach for their phones when they wake up in the morning. They use their smartphones both to launch apps and to browse the Internet, but they’re not always happy with what they find when they go online or search the App Store for a company’s site or app.
Almost half of respondents said that they tried to access the mobile site of a brand or business via a smartphone or a tablet at least once daily, and 86% of respondents reported that many websites didn’t offer good mobile functionality.
A blog post by tech firm Aptera noted last summer that “millennials hate your website,” reporting that digital natives are “pretty sure they know what good design looks like,” are confident that “they know how websites are ‘supposed’ to work,” and “don’t have any patience for sites that don’t meet their expectations.”
From sites that just don’t work well on a smartphone to those with countless dropdown menus to navigate, websites that aren’t mobile-friendly make a bad impression on millennials and often prompt them to share their negative impressions with others who talk a brand.