Until a decade ago, people were chatting, reading books or napping in commuter trains and public buses. Today, almost everybody sitting beside you and in the opposite row of seats is holding a smartphone at nose level and absorbed in games, surfing websites, and tweeting in the train and bus. They are looking at their smartphones on the platform while waiting for their train to arrive. I occasionally bump into a pedestrian who is looking at their smartphone while walking on the street. This didn't happen with mobile phones. I don’t know whether it’s a social phenomenon unique to Japan or common to anywhere in the world. But to me, as someone who is in his eighties, it seems weird.

A Japanese TV programme described the ubiquitous phenomenon of those who cannot part with their smartphones anywhere or at any time “Internet dependence”.

What is the common English word to describe those who are heavily (or morbidly) dependent on their smartphones? Are they “Internet dependent,” as the TV calls them, “smartphone addicts,” or simply today’s normal smartphone users?

PS: There was an interesting article in connection with this question in the latest (November 26) New Yorker magazine under the title, “Is Internet Addiction a Real Thing? http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/internet-addiction-real-thing

I think “smartphone addict” is an archetype of "Internet addiction.”

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    Also see linked questions Dec 1, 2014 at 1:38
  • @yoichi Oishi: Aprt from the question. We could consider this as a world human issue(negatively) which will create issue in person to person directly communication. and reduct talks..
    – Esha
    Dec 1, 2014 at 7:07
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    Related and amusing (?) is phubbing: the habit of snubbing someone in favour of a mobile phone. google.com/… Dec 1, 2014 at 10:28
  • There is probably a large overlap between digital natives and digital addicts. It might even be a symptom of being a digital native to be "addicted". I use quotes because I'm not sure the term "addiction" is correctly used; of course it will seem like an unhealthy addiction to people over 30, but for those under 30, 24/7/365-connectedness is simply a way of life, and for many people under 20, is the only way of life they know. It's what's normal, and what's necessary in their lives, so that they might stay current with what's going on with their peers.
    – TylerH
    Dec 1, 2014 at 16:27
  • How about 'idiot'? Dec 1, 2014 at 16:33

5 Answers 5


The person is smartphone dependent or a smartphone addict. The typical "addict" is a teenager or young adult, between ages ten and 30. They are numerous in all affluent countries and in some developing countries as well.

Read Smartphone dependency: a growing obsession with gadgets

Are you smartphone dependent? What a typical addict tells us about this:

"I'll admit it: I check my smartphone compulsively. And the more I use it, the more often the urge to look at it hits me. Where? In the orthodontist's office. Walking my kids to school. In meetings. Even while making breakfast. Sometimes it is in my hand before I even know what I'm searching for. Sometimes I tap the screen absent mindedly -- looking at my email, a local blogger, my calendar, and Twitter". Health & Balance


In one of the linked questions, Hugo posted the following answer:

In an similar vein to idiot box, a derogatory name for someone who uses their mobile phone a lot is smartphone zombie.

As evidence, they provide Urban Dictionary a CNN story on smartphone zombies, and a Flickr collection of photos that uses the expression as its title. This article from november 2014 shows the expression is still in use by the media, although I've never heard it before.

In another related question, Manish introduces the term "nomophobia" (from no mobile), which refers to the anxiety some people experience when they don't have their mobiles. His source is wikipedia. That suggests "nomophobe" as a potential answer for your question. I also never heard this expression, although it has also recently been in media, in september 2014.

I tried google-trending the candidate expressions that seem reasonable, with little success. Below is the graph, "nomophobia" is the only term with enough hits to actually plot. The remaining terms are "smartphone addict", "smartphone dependant" and "smartphone zombie".

Google trends graph

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    It must be true; it's on Wikipedia! Dec 1, 2014 at 11:02
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    Your google trending query is not helpful, because "smartphone" is in such a massive usage that most any other term will have zero return in the trend analysis. Eliminate it, and you see that "nomophobia" relatively dwarfs your other terms.
    – John
    Dec 1, 2014 at 20:56
  • "Nomophobe" would be a non-starter in American English, where the term "mobile" is rarely if ever used in this sense. It smacks of European or at least British usage to this native West Coast AmE speaker. Dec 3, 2014 at 18:09

I like 'dependent' as suggested by Centaurus, but what about an alternative being 'reliant' as in 'smart phone reliant'.

Another alternative would be 'obsessive'.

more colloquial might be 'smart phone junkie' or 'smart phone nerd' - a little bit pejorative.

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    I don't think "reliant" works because it doesn't suggest that the person uses the phone all the time, just that they rely on it for many things. For example, I'm reliant on food but I only eat a few times a day. Dec 1, 2014 at 10:20
  • @DavidRicherby good point, but I think the same point and example could be make with dependent - I'm dependent on food but I only eat a few times a day also works - it is a colloquial usage of the word reliant - and dependent-
    – tom
    Dec 1, 2014 at 19:29
  • "Smart phone junkie" is the best term I've seen so far.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 1, 2014 at 20:41

Colloquially, I've seen people who use technology to avoid social interaction referred to as square‑eyes.

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    Does't Square-eys only refer to heavy TV watcher, not smartphone addict? Dec 1, 2014 at 5:51
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    Language changes over time, you know the rest. I think it's applicable here. =)
    – David Lord
    Dec 1, 2014 at 6:25

Not everyone will get the reference, but you could call these people gargoyles.

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