A college student's take on tech

Tech and mobile is a key spending category for students, so it’s important for us here at Student Beans to stay up-to-date on the latest consumer trends for this market, and understand what impacts students’ purchasing decisions.

Our recent US student shopping report revealed that 98% of students have a cell phone, 80% have a laptop, and around a third of students spend over $40 a month on tech and mobile.

The majority of students have a cell phone plan paid for by their parents, such as a family plan, but still have a big influence over which provider they use. The key factors affecting their decision include cell service in their area, which phone model they can get and data allowance. Students are typically consulted on most family tech purchases. As digital natives, they are trusted to make these decisions.

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Most students are either an Apple or Android/PC person and many feel passionately about their choice. Apple’s products are considered stylish and simple to use. “No matter how amazing other brands seem, I could never switch - the iPhone is so user-friendly,” said Devon. At many colleges iPhones seem ubiquitous, but Android is dominant among technology students, such as developers, and those looking for a product with a specific strength. For example, the Google Pixel is noted for its high quality camera.

There are a mix of Macs and PCs seen on campus as, despite the preference for Apple, PCs are more affordable. PCs are also good for gaming and developing, and most non-Apple brands offer a product targeted to MacBook fans. Factors that influence a new laptop purchase include storage, processor speed and screen quality. The students in our focus group said they go for a more high spec laptop hoping it lasts longer. They’re also keen to insure their devices against damage or loss.

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Students prefer to keep their phone and laptop longer rather than constantly upgrade, and claim they are not influenced by the pressure to have the latest device. “I really don't care at all - I have a phone that works, it’s fine,” said Khallisa. They try to keep devices as long as possible, and wait until they break to get a new one. More than half of students who own laptops say they replace them every four years or less.

Outside of these two core devices, students’ attitudes to new tech innovations such as smart speakers and cleaning robots are a mix of novelty and distrust. They are wary of technology that can record private conversations, and suspicious of tech brands who aren’t transparent about the data they capture and why.

Another big category within the tech sector is gaming, popular with both male and female students. It can be a social activity, for example while drinking at home before a night out, or online with friends. According to 22-year-old Jackson, “Fortnite is a sensation in the States right now - every guy is obsessed, even if they don’t usually game.”

Want to find out more about the student demographic and how you can engage them with your next tech or mobile marketing campaign? Get in touch today to discuss this with our team of student marketing experts.