How you lock a smartphone can reveal your age, UBC study says
A youth checking his smartphone in Glenview, Ill., Oct. 24, 2013. (AP / Nam Y. Huh)
Do you use your fingerprint to unlock your smartphone? Or do you prefer the more traditional password?
New research from the University of British Columbia suggests the way you lock your smartphone can reveal a lot about your age.
The two month long study – which was presented in May in Glasgow and claims to be the first to provide such insights – looked to examine how people of certain ages kept their phones secure and how they used the devices.
According to the research, older users are more likely to unlock their smartphones using PINs and when they're stationary – such as working at a desk.
"One of our results related to age being a good predictor for some choices related to smartphone unlocking mechanism selection, is that older participants were less likely to enable "fingerprint" authentication on their devices," the study reads.
Konstantin Beznosov, a UBC electrical and computer engineering professor who supervised the research, says the findings should help inspire designers moving forward.
"There's no 'one size fits all' approach when it comes to unlocking phones. People use it differently depending on where they are in their life and depending on their gender," he said. "Smartphone manufacturers should take this into account and take flexibility into account for unlocking mechanisms."
The study tracked the habits of 134 volunteers across North America, ranging from 19 to 63 years old, through an app on their Android phones.
"Our sample is much more representative of the general population," he said, adding he believes that previous studies were skewed towards younger users.
Men are more likely to rely on a phone's auto lock system to keep their device secure compared to women, and women – on average – use their phones significantly longer than their male counterparts.
But that changes as you age, the study suggests, with men in their 50s using their devices much longer than women of the same age.
"By tracking actual users during their daily interactions with their device, we now have real-world insights that can be used to inform future smartphone designs," said Beznosov.
The study also found that older users used their phone less frequently than younger users, and that for every 10-year interval in age, there was a 25 per cent decrease in the use of a phone.