I had the privilege for the last year or so of running a youth group in the city I live in. It was very interesting to gather some insight into the tech habits of teenagers, what they purchased and why. Tech buying habits change fast, but these are some of the observations I made during my time there.
Any smartphone is better than no smartphone.
A lot of teenagers are on a budget, and parents are often not inclined to fork out top bucks for the most desirable of devices. But a cheap smartphone on a prepaid service is usually within the reach of someone with a part time job at Maccas, and it's better to be seen owning some kind of smartphone than a good quality non-smartphone.
iPhone is still the most coveted brand.
If you're going to steal a phone, make it an iPhone. There is still no portable device that demonstrates you have arrived like an iPhone.
iPod Touch FTW
If mum and dad won't fork out for the new iPhone, an iPod touch seems quite up to the task of filling the role of demonstrating that you are both trendy and capable of making good buying decisions.
An iPad is a Portable Device.
It is only now just starting to wain, but iPads would show up at concerts on a regular basis, and were considered perfectly fine photo taking devices. I'm talking full sized iPads. While I would shake my head in disbelief, (even as an avid iPad evangelist) the people using them seemed quite comfortable sporting their clipboard sized cameras.
A computer without a DVD drive is stupid.
I personally am not too fond of the optical drive as it takes up too much space, but a lot of older teenagers still owned a large number of DVD's and were not at the point of buying or renting movies online. A laptop was supposed to give the freedom to enjoy movies away from the family TV. They felt rather put off at the thought of owning a MacBook Air and not having a DVD drive.
It's good to play your music on your phone's speakers for the world to hear.
I could not think of a situation where I would want to broadcast my music to the world out of my phone's tiny speakers, yet social music enjoyment was very important to these kids, and they would often have their music playing in their pocket through the phone's speaker, or everyone would be sitting around a phone or iPod Touch listening to the "sick beats" (jk, never heard someone say sick beats before).
Facebook is King. Twitter is weird.
99% of the kids loved and lived on FB. Twitter was a strange world of randomness where they would grab an account, tweet once, and leave it dormant for all time thereafter. FB is more than something you check every few days or so, for a lot of these guys and gals it's like breathing.
A $400 iPad is way more desirable than a $2000 computer.
Way more street cred with an iPad. Oddly. Even though you could sell the computer and buy 5 iPads.
Wifi at someone else's house should be communal.
I was dumfounded at how many people would ask to use my wifi when they came to visit. Not offended, just amazed. It may become like offering someone a drink when they come to visit. "Can I get you a drink? Would you like my wifi password?"
I have a new phone number.
When I have changed my mobile number in the past, it was as traumatic as changing religions or spouses. A lot of the kids I dealt with seemed to change their number every time a telco brought out a better pre paid service. Seemed porting the number to the new service was too much hassle. Another reason FB was the best way to keep track of all their friends.
These observations apply to the "non geek" teenagers I dealt with. In the tech savvy geek teen world, things were a bit different. Something to share with you another day, perhaps.