I learned about the rise of mobile fairly early, before Apple launched a revolution by introducing the first iPhone in 2007, in fact.
Round or about 2006, I browsed an analysis done by a company for the social network that employed me. Like a Paul Revere of the Internet age, this report would supposedly enlighten us as to the path ahead so we could exploit opportunity.
I snickered at their prognostication that most people would use our cell phones to browse the web by the turn of the decade. It seemed utterly absurd, pre-smartphone. Looking back, they were dead on correct that mobile web usage would explode. Even our competitor back then, a little website called Facebook, is still struggling to catch up and monetize mobile.
A website designer risks looking foolish if he or she doesn’t incorporate what’s known as a “responsive design” where the column widths adjust to look roughly the same whether the site is being viewed on a desktop, a tablet or a smartphone. My credit union just made a big deal about their redesigned website… which I can’t really view on my phone. FAIL…
The migration of users from desktop PCs to mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones hit like a tsunami. My thinking, when they introduced the iPad: “Why do I need a big iPhone?” Now I can’t imagine not owning the popular Apple tablet.
Mobile made an impact in how we live in so many ways, from sending notifications and reminders to introducing new tools like scanning bar codes and quick response codes.
I get an odd thrill out of ousting someone as the “mayor” of my favorite eatery and enjoy small perks for checking in when I go out. I get recommendations from friends and strangers alike. I unleash my vengeance for poor service on Yelp.com before I’ve even left the business that angered me.
I’m tempted to send friend requests to people I dislike on Foursquare so I can actually avoid places where they check in.
I trust my online “friends” more than I probably should, broadcasting when I go on trips. Luckily, I’m on good terms with my elderly neighbor who has me on speed dial and lives from a recliner that faces a window with a view of my front door. Facebook should give users the option of delaying their check-ins so it isn’t so obvious when nobody’s home to watch our stuff.
Mobile has even impacted love lives, allowing people to conduct a proximity search for nearby members of a dating site. Strange how that doesn’t seem as creepy as it might have a few years ago, back before we all became stalkers of sorts.
In fact, mobile devices take a prominent role in dating rituals these days. A shorthand cue that a man is just being used for a free meal is if his date keeps checking her phone. Most people will ask a friend to dial in at an agreed upon time, conveniently giving them an out to deal with an “emergency” if the date isn’t going so well.
I read an article this week by Rich Ling concerning the impact of mobile devices on social etiquette. People are becoming more accommodating of phone use in public places.
I get annoyed whenever someone wears one of those Bluetooth connected earpieces because it always seems, in the visual absence of a handset, that they are speaking directly to me or else schizophrenic.
I’ve experienced the awkwardness of having to shush a face-to-face conversation with a friend in order to take a call from my boss Rob, who was assigned his own ringtone that resembled the sound of a nuclear missile alarm, impossible to miss for a good reason. The sound of it blaring still causes my blood pressure to rise, like Pavlov’s puppy if it used a mobile phone.
It helps that Apple introduced text messages that users can send to callers explaining why we are deliberately ignoring their call. Then there’s the old-fashioned excuse of a malfunction conveniently manufactured out of thin air for those we do not even want to acknowledge called.
This technology does make for strange moments.
I went whitewater rafting last year and experienced actual angst while leaving my iPhone in the parked car for the long ride upstream via bus. It felt like leaving an arm or a leg behind.
Indeed, anytime I realize I’ve left the house without my phone, a minor panic ensues. It seems impossible to remember those days when a cell phone was a piece of marginal tech only used by high-rollers and big shots — back when we all paid for expensive landlines.
Memories of getting a faint roaming signal off cell phone towers due to spotty reception also fade with each passing year. Now the challenge is increasingly finding places where you CAN’T get away from mobile connectivity.
I do experience less apprehension, though, when it comes to driving through an unfamiliar city, thanks to the GPS navigation app on my phone. I’ve become so trusting of technology that I rarely even consult a map anymore before embarking on a journey to a strange new place.
Mobile adoption seems to be a generational thing.
We now have to explain the obsolete concept of pay phones to children when they see TV depictions of Superman changing into his tights or Doctor Who traveling through space and time in an antique phone booth (rather than the conventional Delorean).
My mother, who is 73, fusses at me for sending her a text message because she considers it too expensive. My 11-year-old daughter, in contrast, who got her first smartphone at Christmas, stays glued to her device, whether she’s sucking in data off a cell phone tower or using wifi at the house. She carries on text conversations with her little friends for hours. I even caught her once texting a girl who was sitting right next to her.
Teens are so adept at texting that they have their own language shorthand: “LOL”, “BRB”, “TTYL” and so forth. I bet it drives professors mad when college students attempt to bring those new-fangled acronyms into the classroom. DETI (Don’t Even Think About It)!
Given the choice between using a keyboard or a touchscreen, I prefer using the keyboard because I took typing in high school and can knock out 60 words per minute, yet I am still a relative newbie messaging from the iPhone. I pair my iPad up via Bluetooth with a wireless keyboard. My kid is the opposite.
I worry sometimes about her getting too much of a good thing. I lecture her on how it is rude to bring her iPhone to the dinner table and continue using it rather than putting it aside for 10 whole minutes and participating in the family conversation.
Speaking of etiquette, I find nothing more aggravating than someone’s phone ringing at the movies. Even worse if they go on with their conversation in the middle of the movie rather than switching to vibrate and ignoring the call or excusing themselves from the theater. Such a disruption immediately pulls me out of the world of the story I’m (hopefully) absorbed in watching.
Speaking of movies, last summer I worked as an extra on the set of a major Hollywood movie about Jackie Robinson, the first African-American player in Major League Baseball. Titled “42” , it will arrive in theaters in a couple of weeks.
As part of the production, we signed waivers promising we wouldn’t use our mobile devices on the set. Everyone pretty much ignored that, whipping out our smartphones between takes to fill in the boredom of waiting for the lighting guy to change something. It was truly surreal seeing hundreds of people dressed in 1940s clothes, like we just stepped out of the aforementioned phone booth time machine, then conspicuously added iPhones.
During the filming of one of the baseball scenes, the director yelled “cut!” and a production assistant ran over to one of my fellow extras who was caught using her smartphone to record video. They confiscated the device, inspected the video, deleted it, exiled the extra, and told security to arrest the woman if she attempted to return to the set again.
I imagine it can be detrimental to movie productions if scenes leak out on YouTube months before they ever get a chance to earn a dime in ticket sales.
I now instinctively open the camera on my phone and snap a photo or capture short video whenever my child is at a park so I can share the moment with friends and family. It’s as if the act of checking in and recording the moment makes it more real somehow.
I rely on the Siri app to be my personal assistant, reminding me of appointments and adding new information to be shared across the cloud to my mobile, tablet and desktop.
I’m curious to see whether people adopt wearable mobile devices like Google Glass or Apple’s rumored iWatch going forward.
The rapid adoption of smartphones — and all of the apps developed for them — has brought about significant change in the way we live our daily lives. With such potential unleashed, there’s clearly no going back.