How does New Zealand’s staggeringly high mobile phone penetration affect leisure habits?

New Zealand has rapidly embraced the mobile phone as a necessity of modern life. Nearly every single person in New Zealand owns and uses a smartphone. They influence how we communicate, how we navigate our cities, how we plan our days and more. 

While the original PDAs were marketed as work devices, for most people, modern smartphones are leisure devices. Just how has this technology affected leisure habits?


Mobile Gaming

One of the main ways that high mobile phone penetration affects leisure habits is in the rise of mobile gaming. Mobile gaming has become a massive industry. In the last few years, it has begun to dominate the market. 

Most mobile games are fairly simple and easy to play. The majority of the most played games are offered for free with extra content available for purchase. The basic gameplay and attractive visuals make mobile games quite addictive.

Part of the reason that mobile games have taken over so much of our leisure time is the variety offered. This variety also means that mobile gaming feels more inclusive — it isn’t just for the lads. There is something for everyone, from the hardcore gamers to the grandmothers.

Alongside the usual first person shooters, sports or racing games, and role playing action-adventure games, there are puzzle games, word games and collaborative building games. Some of the most popular mobile game franchises are built around puzzle games. 

Alongside regular mobile gaming, online casinos have also become common mobile phone activities. Slot machine games are particularly popular. They follow similar game mechanics to the typical mobile game. They are usually brightly coloured and have catchy images and sound effects. 

The wide range of online casinos available, as seen on an online casino guide like, means that there is something for all types of players. Since each online casino offers a number of different online slot machine games, mobile gamers who need variety will find that there are always new games.


Social Media

According to a recent report, 97% of the New Zealand population were active mobile social media users in 2021. This is a staggeringly high percentage. With nearly every single person in the country connected to social media through a smartphone, the cultural importance of mobile phones can’t be underestimated. 

Not having a smartphone or not having social media accounts is very isolating. It can make people feel detached from the society that they live in. Social media might not be the healthiest form of leisure activity that people engage in, but it is incredibly widespread. 

Social media allows people to build a community online. This has been particularly important during the global Covid-19 pandemic. Even if things felt normal in New Zealand more quickly than they did in the rest of the world, the situation is still frightening. 

Having people to talk to online provides an outlet for these stresses and allows users to feel connected. There are concerns that social media is a perfect breeding ground for conspiracy theories and misinformation. Since social media allows us to see what we want to see based on who we follow, it is very easy to create a bubble. 

As one commentator noted, fears around the vaccine and conspiracy theories about it have led to the development of social media conspiracy groups on the topic.

There can be negative mental health effects from too much social media usage. Young people in particular are vulnerable to peer pressure or of feeling like their self-worth is tied to how many likes or comments they get. 

Finding a healthy balance between leisure time spent on social media and time spent engaging with the real world is very important. Mobile phones make it possible to access social media from anywhere at any time and this can make creating a healthy balance difficult. 


Streaming Entertainment

Another major use of mobile phones is to stream entertainment. Despite having fairly small screens, mobile phones are one of the most popular devices for streaming movies and television shows. 

The popularity of streaming can be seen in the rise in the number of major television stations and production companies that have their own streaming services. Some of the most popular streaming services include Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, Neon and Spark Sport. 

With so many options, people are more likely to spend their leisure time watching streamed content instead of live television. In the last two years, streaming has also taken over from going to the cinema as well.

We don’t just stream movies and television shows though, we also stream music and podcasts. Music streaming services and podcast apps have essentially replaced radio. Being able to stream whatever music you want with a subscription service has changed how most people listen to music, making buying CDs or digital downloads increasingly obsolete. 

Playing podcasts on a mobile phone while commuting, running errands or doing chores has become one of the most engaging ways to turn boring tasks into leisure time. Podcasts are so appealing because there is a great deal of variety. News, true crime, comedy and paranormal stories are among the most popular genres. 

Mobile phones have expanded our leisure activity options and have made it possible for us to participate in some of our favourite leisure activities no matter where we are. Social media, mobile games and streaming entertainment have all become incredibly popular in large part due to the rise of smartphones.