Beyond self report: tools to compare estimated and real-world smartphone use

Sally Andrews, David Ellis, Heather Shaw, Lukasz Piwek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

232 Citations (SciVal)


Psychologists typically rely on self-report data when quantifying mobile phone usage, despite little evidence of its validity. In this paper we explore the accuracy of using self-reported estimates when compared with actual smartphone use. We also include source code to process and visualise these data. We compared 23 participants' actual smartphone use over a two-week period with self-reported estimates and the Mobile Phone Problem Use Scale. Our results indicate that estimated time spent using a smartphone may be an adequate measure of use, unless a greater resolution of data are required. Estimates concerning the number of times an individual used their phone across a typical day did not correlate with actual smartphone use. Neither estimated duration nor number of uses correlated with the Mobile Phone Problem Use Scale. We conclude that estimated smartphone use should be interpreted with caution in psychological research.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0139004
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2015


  • smartphones
  • time perception
  • habit formation
  • checking behaviours
  • ambulatory assessment


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