The habit of looking into and texting on a smartphone is becoming a prevailing social phenomena in Japan these days. We call this habit “歩きスマホ – aruki sumaho – using a smart-phone while walking” in Japanese. It’s a derivative of “歩きタバコ – aruki tabaco – smoking while walking.” Aruki sumaho is really dangerous because you might hit a pedestrian when you are looking into a smartphone while you are walking; similarly, “aruki tabaco” inflicts a burn if the lit cigarette touches the face or hand of a passer-by. Actually, many cases of injuries caused by “aruki sumaho” (such as a fall from a subway platform) were reported. I saw a young man looking into a smartphone while riding a bicycle on the pavement recently. I learned that the similar trends are observed today in many parts of the world on TV.

What do you call “aruki sumaho – looking into a smartphone while walking” and “a walker looking into smart phone” in brief English words?

  • 1
    I haven't heard any common term here in the US Midwest. I'm sure one will develop soon, however.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 17, 2015 at 2:19
  • 3
    An accident waiting to happen?! Don Nov 17, 2015 at 2:28
  • 11
    (One does wonder, though, what it means to walk in English. I always considered walking to be language-independent. ;))
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 17, 2015 at 8:16
  • 2
    I call it "searching for a soulmate," since a person who does it is especially likely to run into someone else who's doing exactly the same thing.
    – Sven Yargs
    Nov 17, 2015 at 8:16
  • 4
    Honest, I once saw a guy looking at his cell phone while riding a motorbike. He went past before I could see what happened next but, good grief, Darwin award.
    – RedSonja
    Nov 17, 2015 at 9:58

7 Answers 7


There is the term smartphone zombie.

A smartphone zombie is a pedestrian who walks slowly and without attention to their surroundings because they are focussed upon their smartphone. Wikipedia

Technically, it is called distracted walking. I've seen cellphone-distracted walking as a more specific term also.

Another option is text walking and it looks like Belgium has a solution for it:

"TEXT WALKING LANE" in middle of sidewalk

Image source: telegraph.co.uk

I've also found the slang term petextrian while searching distracted walking. I've never seen it before but it is a clever coinage. And yet another slang term is wexter.

  • 11
    A "zombie", in US horror movies, is commonly depicted as a person walking with arms outstretched in front, moving in a random direction without paying any attention to what's ahead. Hence they often walk into things. This is a pretty close match, image-wise, to the smartphone user walking while texting. Hence the phrase.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 17, 2015 at 3:16
  • 7
    Is that 'text walking lane' for real? It looks like a really good practical joke to paint that text in cycle lanes...
    – Jeremy
    Nov 17, 2015 at 8:06
  • 4
    @Jeremy -- In fact, it appears to have been photoshopped in.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 17, 2015 at 8:13
  • 2
    The portmanteau Smombie has even be elected the German(!) Youth Word of the Year.
    – Dubu
    Nov 17, 2015 at 8:48
  • 2
    Make petextrian the main answer and I'll upvote.
    – Pharap
    Nov 17, 2015 at 10:38

I've heard those to be called "walk and text" (also "text and walk"), which I believe is derived from the walk and talk trope.

Scientific studies and various news articles used "walk and text" to refer to this behaviour. As well as an Android app called Walk and Text that claims to prevent bumping into something while in the middle of walking and texting.

Google search comparisons (double quotes used to prevent superfluous results):

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    Google is notoriously unreliable with their estimates, if you click on the link, you'll see that "nomophobic" pedestrian in actual fact has only 64 results While "nomophobic pedestrian", in inverted commas, has only one result.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 18, 2015 at 5:53
  • 1
    "text and walk" on the other hand seems stable at 315, 000 hits google.com.au/…
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 18, 2015 at 5:58

Smartphone zombie is a good candidate. But if you don't like comparing living humans to zombies, you could consider using "nomophobic pedestrians".

"Nomophobia", which is a compound noun from "no + mobile + -phobia", means:

the fear of being out of mobile phone contact. It is, however, arguable that the word "phobia" is misused and that in the majority of cases it is only a normal anxiety ... According to Bianchi and Philips (2005) psychological factors are involved in the overuse of a mobile phone.


There is a nomophobia-related article that explains:

Nomophobia is a term describing a growing fear in today’s world — the fear of being without a mobile device, or beyond mobile phone contact.

[Psychology Today]

We never know how "popular" words such as "nomophobia" or "nomophobic" will become, but nowadays people use them more often than before. You would need an additional explanation (or scare quotes) when using them.

You could also consider using "phone-addicted pedestrians".

"Phone (or smartphone) addiction" is a broadly used term to describe "phone-separation anxiety".

  • 5
    "nomophobic" and "smartphone anxiety" seems to focus on the phone part, but not the walking part, nowhere does those words imply that they're doing it while walking.
    – Lie Ryan
    Nov 17, 2015 at 12:27
  • 3
    To me, "nomophobic pedestrian" sounds like a smartphone addicted person who just happens to be walking on the street at that time. The term doesn't imply that they're using a phone while walking on the street. Likewise with "phone-addicted pedestrian".
    – Lie Ryan
    Nov 17, 2015 at 16:47

I've heard it called "dumbwalking", which I personally find apt and catchy. Here is a relevant BBC article.



That's my word for it anyway :-)

As commented below, it references the "i" term used by Apple products. It also has all of the different forms...

  • iPlodding (to iPlod) is the verb
  • iPlodder is the person doing it
  • etc...

Plus, everyone knows what you mean when you say it.

  • 2
    This is the answer, easy to say, single word, references existing 'i' usage, plodding is already known as a slow, inefficient walk. Even though Google only returns 2k hits, not all of which are for the whole word, this should be the canonical answer. I propose this community start a campaign, with a hashtag, to popularise this word and usage.
    – Neil_UK
    Nov 18, 2015 at 6:50

Text-walker has not been suggested yet:

One who text messages while walking, mostly found on sidewalks.
That text-walker almost bumped into me!

From www.dailymail.co.uk:


They also warned that text-walkers are at risk of wandering in front of traffic and stumbling onto train tracks – and urged pedestrians to stop before type.

Another option could be social zombie. It's a broader term for a person totally absorbed in their smartphones (and social media), wherever they are:

No matter where they are or in what situation, the Social Zombie always has a smartphone in front of them and their head bent downwards looking at the screen.

On the street: Social Zombies walk with head down, looking at smartphone, often get involved in a lethal car crash accident.

In addition, there's also type and walk:

In China, there’s a special place for people who like to type and walk



According to certain people, talking on the phone and walking is called twalking. As a website (The Joint) explains,

Twalking is the word used to describe those people who are looking down at their phones while walking. They may be texting, reading, selecting music, or playing a game, but whatever they are doing, it's enough to distract them from what they really should be doing, which is paying attention to their surroundings.

  • 1
    What do those people call talking on the phone while working?
    – Sven Yargs
    Dec 30, 2023 at 2:30

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