As the self-professed tech-geeks that we are, we love mobile technology at iiNet. Last year we discussed the evolution of mobile phones from the biggest bricks to the sleekest smartphones. We even gave you a dose of déjà vu with the six phones you’ve probably owned at some point in your life.
This week, as I’ve been researching flexible phones and spending an undesirable amount of time on public transport, I’ve been thinking about the relationship people have with their mobile phones and how it has changed over time.
I really don’t like to remind myself that it has been 10 years since I graduated high school and that the inevitable invitation to society’s worst tradition, the high school reunion, is sure to be just around the corner. However, the silver lining to getting older and watching time go by is getting to bear witness to the incredible advancements of technology – and mobile technology has been especially interesting to watch.
From Snake to Flappy Bird, it has certainly been a wild ride in mobile advancements. Here are some of the ways our use of mobiles has changed over time.
I know the very first mobiles couldn’t send text messages and were used exclusively for calling, but that was before the average Joe could even afford them, so I’m jumping ahead to the “brick” mobile era.
I first learned to text message on my first “brick” mobile phone, the Nokia 3315. I had a lot of “firsts” with that phone: the first text message I ever sent, the first game I played of Snake, and the phone itself ultimately ended up being stolen at my first high school party. Ahh, the memories.
Back in the brick days, mobile phones had a key pad similar to that on home telephones: the numbers 0 to 9, with the letters of the alphabet assigned to a number. In order to type out a text, you’d need to use the “multi-tap” method, of pressing the number with the letter you need X amount of times for that letter to pop up.
Thank goodness the cumbersome “multi-tap” method has been retired since touch screens allowed for full QWERTY keyboards to be used to text. Intelligent predictive text systems make things even quicker, as your smartphone seemingly reads your mind to know the words you want to write before you write them (except the “naughty” words they pretend you never use).
Before mobiles had photography capabilities and the term “selfie” became part of our everyday vocabulary, people bought and carried around separate digital cameras so they could take pictures while they were out and about. I remember documenting high school birthday parties for Myspace with a small, cheap digital camera, while also having to carry my brick phone around to call Mum to pick me up afterwards. What a pain.
Now I don’t really know anyone with a cheap digital camera. The serious photography types usually go all out with some amazing (and pricey) Nikon set up, and most regular people just take photos with their smartphone. On my last big overseas trip I did pack a digital camera out of habit, and then never used it. It was just always easier, and more discrete, to do a quick snap with my iPhone. Most smartphone cameras these days take pretty high quality photos, especially if all you want to do is take family photos, selfies or document outings and holidays.
Health and Wellbeing
A lot of people used to be frightened about mobiles negatively impacting our wellbeing, with mobile phones’ radio waves feared to fry our brains. However, with the constant advancement of smartphones and apps, a lot of people are using their phone to live healthier lives.
Fitness wearables, which track vital information such as heart rate and daily steps, are often linked to apps on our phones. There are apps to help us sleep through the night by playing calming music, apps to send us ideas for healthy meal recipes, apps to keep your stress in check and help you meditate; the list goes on.
Though using your mobile is now considered one of the most dangerous activities you can do while driving, there are many ways smartphones are improving the way we get from A to B. There’s the obvious one of inbuilt GPS systems: for people with no sense of direction like me, who get lost 2 minutes down the road from their own house, that was a gift straight from the heavens! I just have to drive and that sweet voice of my GPS tells me where to go (though it hasn’t quite got a handle on the pronunciation of some of our especially Aussie street names).
However, GPS isn’t the only way smartphones are changing transportation. Uber is one of the most popular ways to get around these days, and it’s no surprise why. It’s so simple: you just download the Uber app, punch in your credit card details to set it up, then any time you need a lift, it’s as easy as opening the app and clicking “Request”. The app locates you from the GPS in your phone, and drivers never seem to be far away (seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever waited longer than 5 minutes for an Uber driver to arrive after a request).
Although there’s a bit of controversy with Uber taking a big chunk of business away from traditional taxi services, it’s hard to deny the benefits of an app based, ride-sharing system, where payment is automatic. I especially love the feature of a star rating system, which ensures I get incredibly friendly service each time (and yes, I always reward with 5 stars in return!).
Nothing like a bit of retail therapy to curb the working week blues and now it’s dangerously easy for me to indulge whenever and wherever I like. When you had a phone as cheap as the brick Nokias were, the only thing you’d ever buy for your smartphone was more credit to top it up. Back in the day, pre-paid was the way to go, and if you ever forgot your own phone, you’d barter with your friends “I’ll give you a dollar right now if you let me use your phone to send a text”.
Then you could start purchasing custom ringtones and games. Then a plethora of apps, each with their own collection of further in-app purchases. Lately there’s been a lot of discussion about the “Freemium game” – games that can be downloaded for free, but make money off players through micro transactions within the game. This can be a dangerous concept in very little hands; kids may not understand they are spending real money inside the game. We’ve written an in-depth piece about this for parents here.
It’s not just purchases for the handset itself that’s changing the world of shopping. All you need is a smartphone and credit card and you can pretty much buy anything you want in the world. You couldn’t manage that on the rudimentary web browsers offered on a brick phone.
There’s no doubt about it, the further mobile technology advances, the more the world around us changes. It seems life will continue to evolve as technology does.
How has mobile technology changed your life? Let us know in the comments below.