Smart phone etiquette

Nowadays, most people spend more time with their phone than any other item they own! In fact, the average Aussie spends 38 days a year on their phone! Honestly, if you added up the time you’re in contact with your phone, could you confidently say it was less than the amount of time you spent at work each day?

The first smartphone, the Simon Personal Communicator, was created by IBM and hit the market in 1992. More than 15 years later, Apple released the iPhone on the 29th of June, 2007. While this may not have been the first smartphone, it surpassed everyone’s expectations and we were launched into the smartphone era we know today.

Smartphones mean that we now have the internet in our pockets, photography is no longer a hobby but a part of day-to-day life, communication is 24/7 and apps have changed the way we create and distribute software. However, what is the proper etiquette when it comes to using your phone? There are unspoken rules in the cinema such as; calls are a big no no, texting is frowned upon, and checking your screen out in the open is criticised unless you can manage it secretly in your bag or under your jumper. However, when it comes to watching a movie with friends at home, or meeting up for a coffee, what rules should we keep in mind?

Do you take others into consideration when using your smartphone while you’re out and about and socialising? I mean, things may seem different if you’re watching Friends or Bridesmaids for the millionth time – because let’s be honest, when you can quote every second line I think the rules can slide – but when you sit down to a new movie, a coffee with a friend or at the family dinner table – what unwritten rules are out there? I picked the iiTeams brains and we’ve put together a list of the top 10 smartphone etiquette tips below.

Etiquette Tip #1: Ask before posting special events

With everyone updating their social feeds all the time, it seems to have become necessary to have ‘unplugged’ announcements at weddings and a special request to not announce the arrival of a new baby. Be respectful to the person whose news you are about to share – ask them before posting and let them enjoy every moment. That includes the announcement so be sure they’re the first to share the photos or news!

Etiquette Tip #2: Checking your phone during a movie

If it’s more than a handful of times (say, 5) and it’s not to track your food delivery while your stomach is grumbling – it’s too many times! Trust me, if you’re constantly texting away and scrolling through Insta while your friend is thoroughly enjoying the movie you can almost guarantee you will have a few death stares thrown your way.

Etiquette Tip #3: Dial down the volume

With specky new phones I can almost guarantee that the person on the other end of the phone can hear you. So stop the yelling and be aware of your surroundings. If you can’t hear and people are around you, end the call politely and call back when you’re in a space you can talk without disruption.

Etiquette Tip #4: Hold up the paparazzi

With access to such great cameras on our phones, the filters and editing tools in apps, and the ease of access to social media, the flash is going here, there and everywhere as everyone embraces their inner photographer. Despite the saying “if you don’t post a pic did it even happen?”, do you really need all those pics? Personally, I am a BIG photo taker. There’s nothing I love more than having a photographic trail of my memories. But life is to be experienced so take a few pics but don’t forget to enjoy the moment and pop your phone away after – social isn’t going anywhere so if it doesn’t have to be a live update – post it later!

Etiquette Tip #5: Sign off your emails properly

Do away with the ‘sent from iPhone’ sign off on your email. Set up a proper signature to show you care and keep things profesh! Smartphones means we’re constantly looking for instant responses so if you’re having some unplugged time, leave an auto reply people know you’ll get back to them ASAP.

Etiquette Tip #6: Keep your beats to yourself!

While you may like to listen to head bangin’ tunes at 8am on the way to work, chances are the rest of the train aren’t that keen (if they were, they’d have their own music to listen to anyway). Keep your music down and be aware of how loud it is – headphones are to keep the sound contained so we shouldn’t be able to sing-a-long with you, especially while we’re trying to read! Oh, and don’t have conversations on speaker phone either – we don’t need to know all the details about Beckie’s life!

Etiquette Tip #7: Check your spelling

Your vs you’re, board vs bored, colon or cologne?

Autocorrect may be your friend or worst enemy. Phones have the tools so that you can check your spelling as you type. Leave a lasting impression and take the time to check your text. By sending messages with words missing (or perhaps the wrong words entirely!) you’re simply showing that you’re not checking what you’re saying.

 Etiquette Tip #8: Put your phone away while at the checkout

If you’re on the phone and are on your way to pay, stop. Firstly, pop your phone away and give your full attention to the staff member behind the counter who is giving you theirs. Sometimes we can’t help it, so if you have to stay on the phone ensure to acknowledge the staff and offer a smile and apology so they know you appreciate their work.

While we’re on the topic of checkouts, you know those tempting small buys that line the checkout lines as you make your way up to the till? The ones that are strategically stocked with magazines, chocolates, mints and small must-have items for customers to impulse buy. It appears that nowadays we’re so consumed with our phones that we’re walking straight past these items. Is this the reason that gum sales have decreased by 15% since 2007 (coincidentally the same year the iPhone came out)?

Etiquette Tip #9: Put the phone down while on the move

Safety first! Keep an eye on the path or road while you’re walking and leave space for other pedestrians. Drivers, keep two hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. If you must send a message let your passenger type or call using your voice activation options or in car controls. If this isn’t an option or you’re driving alone, pull over and turn the engine off while you reply or sort out your maps.

Etiquette Tip #10: Acknowledge the people you’re spending time with

Be present and live in the moment and enjoy the company of those around you. Mid-discussion, you may come across an unknown fact and need to ‘Google it’ (I know I do) and that’s okay because you’re having a discussion, just be sure to pop your phone away again afterwards. When it comes to dinner time, put your phone away at the table and just enjoy the company and food. If you MUST take that #Instafood pic, quickly take the pic and post it later.

What’s your smartphone etiquette pet peeve? Share it with us in the comments.


  1. People getting their smartphone out during a dinner/coffee date/occasion is just like (olden days) someone getting out a newspaper and beginning to read it, ignoring everyone else while they catch up with the news. Rude!

  2. Solo says:

    If Safety is first then Tip #9 should Tip #1 , too many people are dying from distraction accidents.

  3. Robert says:

    Peeve. People who text other people in the same house, office or room. People sharing the same holiday house who text you while you are in the shower. Car passengers who never look up from their phones on a trip. Passengers, usually young, who whinge constantly about their phone not working because the car doesn’t have Bluetooth or something else.

  4. Regine says:

    While I do love my smartphone I find it appalling when whole families sit in the restaurant and each family member stares into a smartphone or tablet – no conversation, nothing.

    I would welcome smartphone/tablet free restaurants.

  5. Nicholas Elliot says:

    Checking your phone even once during a movie is too many times and distracts those around you. It should be turned off.

  6. Marg says:

    I work in a large shopping mall and the thing that makes me sad about smart phones is seeing a grandparent who is looking after a teenager during school holidays and during lunch the grandparent is staring into space whilst the child is constantly on their phone.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Turn it off at the dinner table!!

  8. Gary says:

    Perfect Erin, Thank you for the timely reminder

  9. Peter says:

    We used to have discussions about things,ie longest river in the world now some “brain” will go straight to the. Phone and tell all assembled how clever they are that they know the answer,or at least wiki does.
    We don’t need the art of conversation any more .

  10. Steve says:

    People in public areas leaving their social media sound alerts pinging away. In a confined space like a bus or train,this is at best distracting and at worst hyper-annoying. Do you really need to know instantaneously about the next post? Turn them off, people!

  11. Hugh says:

    I agree with all of the above.

  12. Deb says:

    I use the do not disturb function on my phone when I’m driving. It automatically comes on when my phone connects to my car’s Bluetooth. A fantastic safety feature that makes sure I’m not distracted by incoming texts. I’m trying to get my sons to do the same with their cars but without much luck at the moment.

  13. jay says:

    Tit for Tat: walk out if the phone is answered when you have given up your time to share their company, as you aren’t important!

  14. john says:

    I thought people were short of money, How much do they spend a week on this instant rubbish

  15. Harry says:

    I purposely ignore the phone whenever I’m driving, and whenever I’m on a motorbike I turn it off altogether. I can do without the distraction. Sure that might seem rude, but as one of my riding instructors wisely pointed out: which would you rather, getting where you’re going in one piece or have a stack and not get there at all? I’ll take the one piece, thank you very much.

  16. David says:

    Being a concerned grand parent, it frustrates me to see mum walking across a pedestrian crossing pushing their little one year old while she is texting and a car is waiting for her to complete the slower than normal crossing. Is attending to the phone that important, at such a dangerous time, where there could be obstacles on your pathway to the other side?

  17. Graeme says:

    I would like to propose a no use of your not so smart phone day (unless its an emergency)
    Even a no Facebook or Google day would be good

  18. Russ says:

    I met up with a long lost mate. We hadn’t seen each other for years. We sat down for coffee and started filling in the gaps of all the things that had happened in the interim. Next thing, his phone beeped and he got a text, which he replied to. When finished I asked him if it was a work thing. He said “No, just a friend.” The texts went back and forth and after the 3rd one I asked him if it was a close friend. He said “No, just an acquaintance.” After about the 6th one I got up and left. An acquaintance at the other end of that phone was more important than being face-to-face with someone he’d known for 40 years. Funny thing is, he actually sent me a text to ask me why I walked out!

  19. Mark says:

    Two comments about phone etiquette –

    1 Never use or look at a phone during a movie. Turn it off before entering the cinema, and turn it back on as you leave. It is super annoying!!

    2 Even more so when driving – there used to be a motto (I think it was attributed to Telstra.) “Engine on; phone off” Good advice.

  20. Johnno says:

    Biggest impact of smartphone etiquette on me was sitting at work during “smoko” several years ago.
    No card games, no conversation or laughter or discussions on fast-cars, fast women, epic drinking bouts or sport.
    Complete silence with everybody probably tweeting or on face-book. All in their own individual little world.
    The world’s getting colder and some people seem unable to communicate without a phone in their hand.
    I imagine it will only get worse. No more “Gidday”