Three Millennial Tech Myths Busted

A core thesis we have about the future of technology here at Creative Strategies centers on a younger demographic. Because of that, much of our continued research on the industry leads us to do dedicated studies of the Millennial demographic to help us understand the unique function of technology from this cohort. We recently completed a study spanning hardware preferences, software behavior, collaboration techniques, communication techniques, and more specifically on the 18-24-year-old millennial segment. This group is largely still in college and about to enter the workforce with an established set of collaboration and cloud-based workflows. An essential part of our study was to understand how this demographic is using the combination of hardware, software, and cloud services to be productive.

As part of our study, we discovered some interesting data which busts many myths associated with this demographic. For reference, this study was taken by 1,446 respondents within the millennial demographic and over 90% are 18-24. This study also spans over 40 college campuses.

Myth #1: Millenials are Done with Facebook
Perhaps one of the most popular myths is millennials don’t use Facebook anymore or, if they do, it is not central to their social media usage or an app that gets used daily. We asked millennials which apps they use on a daily basis. To our surprise, Facebook is still king. 89.35% of millennials still use Facebook on a daily basis. This percentage was the highest of all the apps we tested. Next on the list was Snapchat with 76.36% using it daily followed by Instagram at 73.79%.

While all current data we have suggests engagement time may indeed favor things like Instagram and Snapchat over Facebook, there is no doubt millennials still have Facebook as a daily part of their behavior. The more we study how millennials and even Gen Z use different social networks, we observe how each seems to serve a purpose. None appear to replace each other entirely but they all offer something a little different. This demographic has no problem juggling them effectively for their needs.

Myth #2: The PC is Dead to Millenials
Perhaps the most interesting hardware discovery our study made was how important the PC still is to this demographic. Through a variety of questions and behavior scenarios we tested, we came to the realization the PC is still the form factor this demographic uses and prefers to get “real” work done. While this demographic is certainly the most comfortable using their smartphone to do things that classify as “work”, more so than older demographics, they still prefer their notebooks for a variety of productivity, creativity, and entertainment use cases.

One of our questions tested a specific scenario to understand how they may weigh hardware preferences in a particular situation. We presented them with a scenario where they were going on a trip and were going to be working on a project while they were traveling. On this trip, they could only take one device for all their needs. We asked them to choose if they would take their notebooks, smartphone, or tablet. We were certain it was a no-brainer and the majority would want their smartphone. To our surprise, 42.46% said they would choose their notebook. The smartphone barely beat the notebook with 42.92%.

The scenarios we tested showed the strength of the laptop form factor when any level of “work” or “school project” was involved. Based on many of the write-in comments on why they choose the device they did, it was clear that, had there not been work involved, there would have been no contest with the smartphone as the clear winner.

Myth #3: Face to Face Meetings are not Desirable
The strength of myth is questionable but I hear it frequently from senior managers at large corporations. Many Silicon Valley tech companies which employ large numbers of millennials also note how prevalent video conferencing has become with this generation. There is no question the idea of face-to-face meetings may be suspect or questionable with this demographic — they feel it is a waste of time. However, our study shows they still view face-to-face meetings as the most efficient way to collaborate.

We examined the preferred collaboration methods at different stages of a project for millennials and found face-to-face meetings were viewed as the most useful and preferred for both the planning and brainstorming part of the project and the check up/review stages. Collaborating through things like Google Docs, or a messaging client like iMessage were sufficient to keep making progress. However, when it mattered at critical stages, nothing replaces a good old fashioned meeting–even with millennials.

The more we study different demographics, the more we see quite distinct behavior patterns depending on their life stage. Most of the “myths” I’ve heard are observations of either young millennials or Gen Z who have much more time on their hands. The contrast is quite stark once you observe millennials in college, entering the workforce, or in their late 20s already working and starting a family. Technology remains constant at all stages. Technology is almost always the answer to many problems or challenges with this demographic. However, the ways it is implemented and used may vary widely by life stage and this may always be a constant as well.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

11 thoughts on “Three Millennial Tech Myths Busted”

  1. Not actually surprised by any of this.

    Meatspace beats virtual space hands down, and it is only the fever dreams of socially inept nerds that keep the idea that virtual is better afloat.

    “Work” almost invariably involves typing, and a real keyboard is still invaluable for any serious amount of typing.

    That the newer generations are “done” with facebook is a dumbed down oversimplification that seems to have replaced the real findings of earlier studies, which were that while older people seemed to stick with a single thing for most of their social networking needs, younger people were splitting their time among various networks, and strategically choosing what to share where based on context, utility, and who had them in their circle on which network.

  2. ‘Through a variety of questions and behavior scenarios we tested, we came to the realization the PC is still the form factor this demographic uses and prefers to get “real” work done.’

    I have always looked askance at the claim that millennials don’t use PCs for heavy lifting. Underlying such a claim would be a presumption that millennials have, in one generation, somehow evolved totally different anatomical features and cognitive abilities. They don’t have much smaller hands and fingers, they don’t have raptor-like visual acuity, and they don’t have savant-like visual recall. So why would we expect that they would prefer to write long form documents, manipulate large dimension spreadsheets, and do other heavy-duty computing tasks on tiny screens, with cramped keyboards, and at most two windows?

    Designing anything that is meant to be used by people should always be anchored on humans’ physical and cognitive attributes. You forget that and you end up claiming that college students are writing term papers and preparing lab reports on their smart phones and iPads. Actually, I suspect not many of them iPads.

    1. Yes. And I feel the same will be true with the teens and elementary kids today who spend all their time on non-laptop form factors. One has to imagine at some point they also realize the PC form factor is still kind for long form work which will be the norm in college and the workplace.

    2. I’m wondering if there’s been any actual change to the PC-equip pattern. Aside from gaming and my tech interests, I got my first “work” PC when I went to University.
      I understand kids get tablets and teens get phones early on, but has the actual age when people get their first PC actually changed ?

      1. Sophomore year in high school was when my kids really needed a laptop of their own for essays, term papers and lab reports and that continued on to college and grad school. I gave the older kid an iPad3 when he was a college freshman and it just slowly fell out of use and we never bought another iPad since. Seems laptop+smartphone is the de rigueur gear for millennials and that’s why tablet sales have settled at a much lower level than smart phones. I inherited the iPad3 and it is still in use at home for light media consumption but I don’t think I’ll get a replacement when its OS version becomes unusable.

        1. I’m older, I’d have been thrown out of class for handing in printed stuff, I think now it’s the reverse. My 14yo niece is still handing in handwritten stuff, but she asked for a PC recently, even though she has a smartphone and a tablet.

  3. I enjoy analysis that tries to get at–and break down–stereotypes. For example, some of the most technical people I know are boomers, especially among software developers.

    Still, I would love to see this kind of analysis account for other demographics, such as social class and vocation. Mobile devices trump PCs in many parts of the world because of social class–people can’t afford both a mobile device and a PC; this extends to parts of the American public. In work settings, as one example, it wasn’t very long ago that some medical people felt they didn’t have time for most kinds of personal computing, yet now many more have digital workflows because of electronic medical records. Those habits are now spilling into more personal computing.

    (And a nit–“millennial” is misspelled in the headings of the article, though not in the body.)

    Nice work overall!

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