A Look at How ‘Normals’ Think About Tech

To start, I don’t exactly like calling on-tech-geeks ‘normals,’ and there is a lot of good discussion out thee about how that divisive term is problematic. However, it’s an effective headline term, so here we are.

I recently took a trip with 4 people who I would consider normal, average young consumers of technology. They are all female and college age, so take that as you will. But I thought it offered an interesting perspective into some of the major tech arguments and narratives that we’ve been discussing over the past year or so.

All 4 girls had an iPhone of the most recent generation. 2 opted for the 7 size, two for the 7 Plus. If those, 1 of the 7 owners wished they had gotten the Plus sized phone because it was better, and she wished her phone was bigger. The other one with the 7 was constantly burning through battery, and had an extra battery case as well as a lipstick external battery with her at all times.

The girls didn’t know about Portrait mode on the Plus. However, once I took a few group shots of them using the mode, they were hooked. They absolutely loved the blurred background after they saw it, even though they didn’t think they would. The portrait mode shots were their favorites from the whole trip.

If I had to nail down the most important influencing factor to the larger phone purchase, it was absolutely the camera. So much of what these ladies did on their phones, at least on vacation, involved photography, and the quality of the images produced was accordingly of utmost importance. This is a narrative that has reached the tech world, but it absolutely holds up: cameras sell phones.

More interesting is that the loss of the headphone jack is essentially a non-issue. Don’t get me wrong, they absolutely noticed it — each of them referenced not being able to plug in anything to their new phone, but they all simply talked about which Bluetooth headphones they were going to get. One was very interested in AirPods. They all used Bluetooth to play music in the car while driving.

One of the girls wore a series 1 Apple Watch. She used it constantly to find where she had set down her iPhone. Two other girls talked about wanting one, but not having the money just yet (they’re college students, after all). They all seemed to like how the silver aluminum and white sport band looked.

Snapchat is still very much relevant. You don’t give people you meet your phone number, you give them your Snapchat username. It is the quintessential communication tool. Stories are also important. However, for everything that isn’t stories and DM’s, Instagram is king. The girls were dying to try out the new album/gallery/multiple-photo-post feature of Instagram, and posted at least 1 photo per day every day of the trip. Interestingly, twitter was really important for three of the four girls, despite the fact that twitter is struggling with getting and keeping users. The girls got news about sports teams and tv shows they watch from the site. Lastly, Facebook is the monstrous overlord. Facebook was the feed they had to stay completely up to date on for everything. Facebook filled the gaps in time when they were bored. Snapchat stories got watched when DM snaps came in. Facebook got visited all the time.

And lastly, everything they did all week was done on the phone. Between the 4 girls, there were two MacBooks and three iPads brought along (the iPads were all much more recently updated than the MacBooks). However, only once was any of these devices actually used, and it was just to use the iPad Mini 4 as a bigger screen for Netflix. Everything else that was done, whether work scheduling for the return week or photo editing, was accomplished from the phone. This is important for us geeks to remember — normal people don’t use their laptops for anything. Mobile is clearly the future.

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