Mobile phones or smartphones – as they are called nowadays – is part of the wider wireless communication devices and technology that are taking the world by storm. In the past, mobile phones have been already revolutionary, enabling people to communicate while on the move or away from home at work. Phones are traditionally wired and, therefore, their use limits individuals to where they are physically connected. The gadget has experienced rapid development and innovation in a couple of years. It now has many features and capabilities from a mere phone calling functionality that it now rivals computers and threatens to eradicate them, just like how television has marginalized or diminished the radio’s importance. The dominant view is that personal computing is being killed by smart phones, citing the enormous growth in usage, mobile technology and capability. Smartphones are already poised to be the dominant device, according to a report in The Guardian, where people connect to the Internet, hold information, run programs and organize their lives – functions that were what the PCs were made to do. What is important from these developments is that the way people live is changed by smartphones, including how people perceive themselves and what it actually means in modern times and in the near future to be human. Here, smartphones show what the author called P.G. Wodehouse as “the frozen limit” or what breaks the barriers in our society and the world set by constraints and limitations.
What are Smartphones
Motorola was credited with introducing the first phone that was truly mobile hand assistance. The first hand set in 1973 was developed by a team from this organisation led by Martin Cooper and it was huge, weighing a staggering two kilograms (Teixeira, 2010). The cost of producing a mobile cost at least $1 million back then, as opposed to the cost of making the latest iPhone today, which is only estimated at $191 million (Associated Press 2013). The analog cellular system was introduced in 1978 and the most advanced of this technology was developed in 1983, costing $100 million and taking nearly a decade to reach consumers (Associated Press, 2012). The phones were sold for nearly $4,000 each in this technology and it has only an average of about 30 minutes of talk time (Associated Press 2012). The second generation 2G phone was introduced in the 1990s. The SMS was introduced around this time – a new way of mobile communication. This started the rapid development of mobile phones as handsets began to feature rich media content capabilities. This is now the moment when mobile phones, then, finally, smart phones, have become feature phones. As usage has become widespread, people are beginning to demand more mobile data, leading to mobile technology of the third generation (3G), which is characterized by reliable data speeds. New media capabilities have become possible, such as video streaming. The world has recently been introduced to the wonders of 4G mobile technology, which has greater data speed than 3G technology (Thomas 2013). The rapid evolution of mobile phone hardware has complemented the advancement in data speed. The changes have been revolutionary, particularly in terms of size, display, user interface, appearance, and battery life, from the first hand set back in 1973 to the present iPhone and Android phones. The consequences of these developments are that people today can communicate in numerous ways while on the go: through telephony, video, VOIP, SMS, and so on. Mobile technology advances also magnify the tremendous advantages of the Internet. And the fact that mobile phone users have grown further highlights this. The UN announced last year that there are already six billion cell phone subscribers worldwide (BBC, 2012).
Impact on Human Lives
There are many studies that provide empirical evidence demonstrating how telephony has beneficial effects on the economic growth of a country. For example, the relationship between economic growth and telecoms roll-out was documented by Unwin (2009). (188). Other studies also established the links between ICT use and economic performance (i.e. Forestier et al., 2002; and, Waverman et al., 2005). It appears that mobile technology contributes to how economies drive productivity and empower people. The World Bank has provided an excellent example. It was found that mobile technologies, along with those under information and communication technology (ICT) have improved “access to markets and increase participation in market by reducing transaction costs associated with time and mobility constraints” (261). The report specifically cited the case of women. It was revealed that mobile technology empowers women because it helps them address restrictions in their mobility as well as their available time. The report stressed the transformative effect of mobile phones, particularly, in women living in developing and poor countries. World Bank found that “cell phone access and use can alleviate time and mobility constraints for women by increasing their ability to coordinate their family and work lives, reducing the cost of money transfers, and cutting down the physical labor or travel required to discover information” (262). The positive impacts are also true in the case of other marginalized sectors of society.
It is important to note that today, Internet penetration is still low in many countries, especially the poor ones. So it is difficult for them to take advantage of the economic and social opportunities it offers. Mobile phones can solve this problem as mobile computing capability and data speed becomes more advanced, accessible and less costly.
An Indispensable Tool
Many people today will probably tell you that they cannot live without their smartphones. This is not an exaggeration and will prove true in many respects. First, mobile phones now hold most of their data either personal or work-related. For example, there is the case of phone contacts. Modern smartphones are no longer just about a list of names, their phone numbers or and addresses. The phone Contacts is already a portal to a highly integrated digital world that contain not only important information but also the links to social media, online activities, and a host of other connectivity options.
The social media usage in mobile phones is also realizing the existence of a digital society. Using the phone, an individual can talk, socialize, get updated, purchase goods and services and even interact with governments and avail of its services.
Essentially, the smartphone is freeing people from many constraints as they use technology to communicate with each other. In addition, it magnifies the benefits of the Internet by making it accessible to billions of people. The usage and the advances in mobile technology are strengthening the information age or how information became traded goods along with tangible products. Additionally, it helps bring more people together in a digital world that is beyond the traditional conception of community.
- Associated Press. IHS study puts iPhone 5S production costs at $191. Yahoo News, 2013. Web. Nov. 2013.
- Associated Press. First cell phone a true ‘brick’. NBCNews.com, 2012. Web. Nov. 2013.
- BBC. UN: Six billion mobile phone subscriptions in the world. BBC, 2012. Web. Nov. 2018.
- Forestier, Emmanuel, Grace, Jeremy, and Kenny, Charles. “Can information and communication technologies be pro-poor?” Telecommunication Policy, 26.11 (2002): 623-646. Print.
- Thomas, Kevin. (2013). 4G Smartphones Expected to Replace Fixed Broadband Lines. 4G, 2013. Web. Nov. 2013.
- Unwin, Tim. ICT4D: Information and Communication Technology for Development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Print.
- Waverman, Leonard, Meschi, Meloria and Fuss, Melvyn. “The Impact of Telecoms on Economic Growth in Developing Countries.” Vodafone Policy Paper Series 2, 2005. Print.
- World Bank. World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development. Washington, D.C.: World Bank Publications, 2011. Print.