Studying the Proximity of Users to Mobile Phones

Many Ubicomp and mobile applications being developed assume users alway have their phones nearby, but we suspect that this may not always be true. Thus, we empirically studyied the proximity of users to mobile devices to determine people’s usage of mobile phones. We found that people do not keep their phones as close as they might expect. Our study was published at Ubicomp 2006. Our work was replicated by Anind Dey and his students at Carnegie Mellon in 2011┬áto update the data for smart phones. They presented their findings at Ubicomp 2011.

Left shows bluetooth badge worn by study participants. Right shows example output of proximity timeline visualization we showed to participants.


Shwetak Patel
Julie Kientz
Gillian Hayes
Sooraj Bhat
Gregory Abowd


  • Patel, S. N., Kientz, J. A., Hayes, G. R., Bhat, S., & Abowd, G. D. (2006, September). Farther than you may think: An empirical investigation of the proximity of users to their mobile phones. In International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing (pp. 123-140). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.