Models and Theories in Human-Computer Interaction/Diffusion of Innovations and the Adoption of Smartphones

The Diffusion of Technology theory seeks to explain why innovations are adopted by the population majority. There are 3 components of variable classification, the characteristics of innovations, characteristics of innovators and environmental context. E. M Rogers also defined 5 qualities that is believed to influence the rate of adoption: Relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability, and observability. Relative advantage and complexity are quite similar to the theories of the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM).

The rate of adoption of smartphone users could be described easily by the Diffusion of Technology theory. When smartphones were released, current cellular phone users had a product that, in most part, met their needs. The smartphone product was introducing new features that had not been available. Users may not have had an immediate need to switch and were left wondering if they would actually use the new features and if it was worth the cost. However, they were able to observe the usage and satisfaction among early adopters, which may influence their decision to switch.

The advertisements created by smartphone companies (i.e apple, samsung, etc) display a desirable image of the advantages of smartphones over their predecessors. There was/is a social pressure at times to switch to a smartphone, as many users refer to this as “upgrading”. I often remember hearing comments from peers, such as, “Wow, you still have a flip phone, why haven’t you upgraded?”. And even now, I will hear people make comments like “You need to get out of the dark ages.”, to standard cellular phone users.

Based on a Gallup poll in December of 2013 of 1031 national individuals, 65% had a smart phone and 42% had a standard cellular phone. This is would indicate that we are still in the “late majority” of adopters in Everett Rogers' 'Category of Adopters' bell curve.


Rogers, E. M. 2003. Diffusion of Innovations, 5th ed., New York, NY: Free Press.

Americans' Tech Tastes Change With Times. (n.d.). Retrieved June 11, 2015, from

Nickerson, R., Austreich, M., & Eng, J. (2014). Mobile Technology and Smartphone Apps: A Diffusion of Innovations Analysis. Retrieved June 11, 2015, from