Can you survive without your smartphone this vacation?

For some, it’s a doddle. For others, like me, giving up data over the summer vacation can quickly turn into a traumatic experience. The worst thing is that I know this dependency will only intensify with the roll out of 5G. Do you have what it takes to switch off your mobile this vacation?


I’m a data addict. I love the stuff. Can’t get enough.

I have two small children at home so, admittedly, any minute I spend on my mobile is a minute too much. But I try, I really do.

For years, I’ve been a poster boy for digital transformation. I hate paper, I love self-checkouts. When faced with a choice of human-human or human-machine, I take the machine every time. In our recent consumer trends report, we call this the “automated society”, and I love it. Printed the boarding card? No thanks, I have it in my phone. Researched the directions to the hotel? No thanks, I’ll assume google maps will save the day at the last second.

A few weeks ago, I decided to give it all up for good. It was time for a new me, a new data-free life. Well, at the very least, for my two-week Italian vacation with the family.

Fasten your seatbelts for takeoff

Expectedly, my digital hiatus came to an all-too-premature anti-climax not long after the “fasten seatbelt” lights had dimmed. Within minutes, I was already looking for a WiFi connection – part out of comatose habit, part in anticipation of my son’s imminent outburst.

Very soon in to the vacation, I began to realize that perhaps a prolonged period in a foreign place wasn’t the best time to take a digital break. And I was right. It wasn’t long before I was already locating the WiFi sweet spot in our hotel room or asking the waiter for the WiFi password before we even ordered the wine.

I’m fairly young. I don’t know how we survived vacations before mobile connectivity. I can barely remember 2G. Maybe we talked more. Maybe we got lost more. Maybe we experienced more. What I do know, however, is that I’m not alone. My generation is the stepping stone to a whole new kind of digital existence. As a civilization, we’ve already made extraordinary gains. And we’re still at the beginning of our game-changing journey toward future technologies.  The game-changer, of course, is the fifth generation of mobile connectivity. Step forward 5G.

Vacations in the era of 5G

By the end of 2024, 5G is expected to account for around 40 percent of mobile subscriptions (Ericsson Mobility Report, June 2019).

While earlier generations grappled with fold-out maps and foreign road signs on vacation, future generations look set to make do with transparent 5G autonomous cars with AR windshields and intuitive navigation. Can you imagine how a National Lampoon’s Vacation script would look in this era?

Still, at least I can be thankful that my earliest vacation navigation experience is in the era of 4G LTE. Yet, for those pauses in between mobile connectivity on the highway, it felt as though I was suspended in some kind of digital vacuum – not being told what to do next, fully in charge of my own will. This melancholic daze could be an early symptom of mental obesity – an indication that I’ve become so used to the “digital decision support” enabled by mobile connectivity, I’m quickly losing the will to think and act for myself.

Right now, though, I don’t care – because soon we could have 5G in-car entertainment, AR maps, gigabyte capacity in seconds, 5G home sensor service, and 3D hologram calling. Imagine how these 5G consumer use cases could change your vacation in future? In the same report, we found that roughly half of consumers would be willing to pay for real-time translations within the next year. For me, this would come one year too late, as it would have certainly helped to avert the dozens of embarrassing mime-based interactions I recently experienced with friendly locals. Give me 5G everywhere, now.

Sun, sea, sand, …smartphone?

Our attitudes towards data are changing. In Western Europe alone, smartphone data traffic is expected to rise by 30 percent year-on-year as 5G gradually gets rolled out.

For me, watching the latest series or live streaming the latest game on my smartphone has become the lowest benchmark in terms of what I expect from the network. Sure, I stopped short of watching Netflix on the beach (albeit, I was tempted) but I know there are plenty out there who wouldn’t think twice about it. 

In the Ericsson mobility calculator, I found that my average data consumption as a video-centric user is already close to the wider global average in 2024 (19 GB and 20.1 GB respectively). How a video-centric user looks in 2024 – following the onset of 4K, 8K and mixed reality – is anyone’s guess. Given all this hype, we consumers are already placing demands on tech providers. According to our Mobility Report, the first wave of 5G-ready devices will begin to hit the shelves over the coming months, no doubt taking our data addiction to higher levels.

Globally, around, 40 percent of those who own the latest iPhone or Android device already admit that the form factors and features will not be capable of taking advantage of 5G promises (5G consumer potential report). Taking this a step further, as many as half of all consumers worldwide say we will be wearing AR glasses by 2025. Just imagine, what a sight for those laid-back locals: a whole clan of data addicts arriving on their shores kitted out with the latest AR goggles.

As one of those data addicts, it’s fair to say that when I arrived back at Stockholm Arlanda Airport and saw those huge Ericsson billboards that greet travelers at arrivals, I was happy to be back in my digital wonderland.

Explore more

Read the latest consumer data traffic insights in the Ericsson Mobility Report.

Visit our consumer trends page to tap in to the latest consumer data insights and behaviors.

The Ericsson Blog

Like what you’re reading? Please sign up for email updates on your favorite topics.

Subscribe now

At the Ericsson Blog, we provide insight to make complex ideas on technology, innovation and business simple.