Audience response systems (‘clickers’) are frequently used to promote participation in large lecture classes, and evidence suggests that they convey a number of benefits to students, including improved academic performance and student satisfaction. The limitations of these systems (such as limited access and cost) can be overcome using students’ personal electronic devices, such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops together with text message, web- or app-based polling systems. Using questionnaires, we compare student perceptions of clicker and smartphone based polling systems. We find that students prefer interactive lectures generally, but those that used their own device preferred those lectures over lectures using clickers. However, device users were more likely to report using their devices for other purposes (checking email, social media etc.) when they were available to answer polling questions. These students did not feel that this distracted them from the lecture, instead, concerns over the use of smartphones centred around increased battery usage and inclusivity for students without access to suitable technology. Our results suggest that students generally preferred to use their own devices over clickers, and that this may be a sensible way to overcome some of the limitations associated with clickers, although issues surrounding levels of distraction and the implications for retention and recall of information need further investigation.