SYDNEY: Smartphones are now regarded as a necessity by Australians, although many confess to being overwhelmed by the device's capabilities, something marketers need to bear in mind when considering mobile campaigns.

Digital Australia, a new report from professional services firm EY based on a survey of 1,500 consumers and 160 digital opinion leaders, highlighted the fact that 81% of Australians now use a smartphone, a figure that rises to 96% among 18-34 year olds.

"They are an absolute necessity rather than an indulgence for Australians," Jenny Young, customer leader for EY, told Smart Company.

But mobile devices also come with a down side: four in ten respondents using a smartphone or tablet said they struggled to keep up with the rapid increase in the capabilities of digital devices

Aside from such technical issues, a significant minority of users reported more physical and emotional experiences with their devices. Around one quarter (24%), for example, said their devices prevented them getting enough sleep.

And a similar proportion often felt overwhelmed by the volume of information they had at their fingertips. "Businesses need to be mindful of that in terms of making their experiences intuitive and easy so users don't have to put a lot of effort into interacting with their websites," Young said.

Personal relationships were another area where smartphones and tablets are having a mixed impact for some: 24% said that their social life would be non-existent without their mobile device, while 23% admitted they spent more time on their mobile device than talking to their partner or friends.

For the majority, however, smartphones and tablets engender a positive effect on users' sense of control and the former especially continues to make inroads into all areas of users' digital lives – across functional, communication and entertainment activities.

Thus, for example, gaming (48%) is the most common entertainment activity but the use of smartphones for playing music, podcasts, TV and film has risen sharply in the past year, from 36% of users to 44%.

In the business arena, some 41% of respondents used their smartphone for banking and finance during 2015, up from 37% a year earlier. And there has been a spurt in the proportion using the device for grocery shopping, up from 18% to 25% in the same period.

Young pointed out, however, that businesses still needed to address "quite fundamental things around privacy and security" as regards the digital experience.

Data sourced from EY, Smart Company; additional content by Warc staff