Salary Survey Extra is a series of dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our annual Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.
In 1926 — just 50 years after Alexander Graham Bell either successfully invented the telephone, or successfully beat Elisha Gray to the U.S. Patent Office — fellow pioneering inventor Nikola Tesla created the first global network and the first smartphone. That is to say, kind of. In an interview with Collier's magazine, Tesla made the following prediction:
"When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance.
"Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do his will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket."
Not quite 100 years later, we are essentially living in the future Tesla envisioned, and our phones and tablets are capable of even more whizbangery than he predicted. You can lie in your bed at 11 p.m., playing a game and watching a movie at the same time, only to be interrupted by a call from the other side of the world just as a notification from the smartwatch monitoring your biorhythms suggests shutting everything down for the night and actually going to sleep.
Entertainment, communication, self monitoring, and personal convenience are far from being the only applications of current smartphone and tablet technology, of course. These devices also ably assist us in our daylight hours, including helping to perform essential job functions across nearly every industry.
They haven't — and probably won't, in the foreseeable future — pushed aside desktop and laptop computers as the primary IT tools of the modern workplace. That day is probably coming, however, and may not be as far off as it seems.
Dictation and voice recognition, or perhaps some other as-yet-unguessed technology, may someday replace the need to have keyboards and mouses (mice?) or trackpads as primary input devices. Lots of people already talk to their phones instead of swipe-texting or using good, old-fashioned two-thumb hunt-and-pecking.
Even so, however, it’s hard to imagine a rapid or complete transition away from the familiarity of typing and clicking. And while phones and tablets have gotten both more powerful and more cross-functional with traditional desktop and laptop computers, the popularity of multi-monitor displays suggests people aren’t entirely ready to have work be concentrated in such a small viewing area.
We didn’t let any of that stop us, however, from asking about the popularity of smartphones and tablets as tools in the workplace. We asked Salary Survey respondents to give us an estimate of the amount of time per day that they use tablets and phones to perform work-related tasks. Here’s what we learned:
Q: How many hours per day do you use a smartphone or tablet to do your current job?
I never use a smartphone or tablet. — 11.7 percent
An hour or so per day — 28.2 percent
A couple of hours per day — 25.3 percent
3 to 4 hours per day — 17.2 percent
5 to 6 hours per day — 7 percent
7 to 8 hours per day — 3.7 percent
More than 8 hours per day — 3.2 percent
Everything I do requires a smartphone or tablet. — 3.4 percent
First off, it’s interesting to note that there are at least a handful of certified IT professionals out there who can already cram their entire jobs into a phone or tablet. The potential at least exists, it would seem, for phones and tablets to become the go-to setup of choice for IT work. A notable 11.7 percent of those surveyed, on the other hand, don’t use phones or tablets at all.
The biggest patch of real estate in between those extremes is occupied by 53 percent of survey respondents who use their phones or tablets either for roughly an hour per day (28.2 percent) or for a couple of hours (25.3 percent). These people have the tools, but aren’t using them to do much more than maybe check work e-mails or sit in on Zoom meetings..
Another nearly 20 percent of those surveyed are getting between three and four hours of effective (or maybe not-so-effective) work done on their handheld devices. Other than the do-everything die-hards, however, fewer than 11 percent of survey respondents are using their phones and tablets more than half of the hours in the day.
Handheld computing may indeed be the future of IT work — but that future is not here yet.