It doesn't take a genius to notice that cell phones are everywhere, and used for virtually everything. From dating and entertainment to communication and commerce, our phones lie securely held as the center of our daily lives.
Everything I need to make it through my day, from boarding passes to spreadsheets, is constantly attached to my hip, enabling me to be the most productive and the most fulfilled person I can be. Smart phones have become a staple of American life because they place the best technology available into the palms of our hands 24/7.
Pew Research Center released its latest findings earlier this year on smart phone usage in the U.S. Not surprisingly, all aspects of usage had significantly increased since their last related study in 2011.
With the need to continually find a better way to do more, it makes perfect sense that smart phones, with all their efficiencies, would be used more and more, replacing older methods of accomplishing tasks in both the home and the enterprise.
From Pew's latest findings, we know that 90% of of U.S. adults own a cell phone of some sort, that 64% own a smart phone in particular, and that 67% of American adult smart phone owners compulsively check their devices without even being notified to do so.
While some may look at this phenomenon as dependence, addiction, or an annoying fad, the circumstances can more accurately be described as a cultural paradigm shift.
For instance, 97% of American adult smart phone owners text regularly. Why? Because for anyone who wants to communicate quickly with friends, colleagues, and clients, texting is the ideal. I can send a message and get back to my day without being stuck on hold or caught up in small talk. It's what we do.
If smart phone usage were merely a trend, we'd see it conglomerate around specific demographics, some particular age or subculture. Even though cell phone usage bubbles among Millennials, 74% of American adults 65+y.o. use a cell phone, and 55% of those 50+y.o. use their smart phones to access the internet and social media.
This prevalence is expected, as those who were younger at the introduction of these technologies have become more dependent on them for daily tasks as they've grow into older and more affluent demographics.
But is this cultural shift a good thing?
How individuals and their governing bodies handle advances in technology and their effects on daily life should always be critiqued. The epidemics of cell phone usage while driving, narcissism through social media, and the need to constantly feel productive are all very real, very serious issues for our society to grapple with.
Conversely, necessity is the cause of invention. Were there no need, no market demand for these technologies we carry in our pockets, they would not exist. Accordingly, we ought to use them for our benefit, and most do.
63% of cell owners use their phones to access the internet. About 18 million of these people have no other access to an internet connection. Think about what that provides. How much do you use the internet for questions, research, work, leisure, etc.?
I had the privilege of attending this year's Par 3 Tournament at Augusta National, where cell phones aren't allowed. Throughout the day, our group of six easily made over two dozen comments about how odd it was not to have our phones on us, or about wanting to look something up online without the opportunity to do so. The day's anthem: "Just Google it... Oh wait."
But smart phones aren't just used for leisurely impulses. They've become critical to the routines of professionals everywhere and to driving business. 81% of people who text do so for business purposes, whether for scheduling a meeting, closing a sale, or anything in between.
52% of American adult smart phone owners use their devices to send and receive email. Over 30% of American adults decide whether to visit a business by first researching that business on their smart phones. While streamlining the decisions and experiences of consumers, businesses have to be more conscientious than ever of how they represent themselves before consumers even walk through their doors.
Interestingly, cell phones have become a staple not only in America, but throughout the world. 48 million people in developing countries have a cell phone, but don't even have running electricity. 1.7 billion people have cell phones, but no bank account! And with 4.2 billion people in the world who use their phones to text, texting is easily the most used data service in the world.
These worldly phenomena haven't occurred because of one giant fad. This development has occurred because mobile phone technology, similar to the invention of the automobile, makes life more convenient and more efficient. It provides more accessibility to people looking for answers to questions, who want to further their social lives, grow their businesses, or experience more of the world's cultures.
It's exciting to live through the new opportunities this technology provides for billions, from being able to access the internet when one couldn't before, to being able to have real-time conversations with friends and family across the globe, to viewing analytics instantly and on-the-go.
The world revolving around smart phones is anything but an encumbrance to human development and interaction. Rather, it empowers us.