Here in Europe we’ve long reached and breached the point at which everyone has a smartphone. Many of you may even have two smartphones. For those working in phone stores, it’s rare that someone walks in without currently having a phone, and then walks out again with a brand new two-year contract.
However, in Australia more than 12 million people own a smartphone, and that’s increased a massive 29% in the last 12 months along. Compare that to here in the UK, where Ofcom figures state that 88% of 16-24 years olds alone have a smartphone. Pretty much the rest of that 18-24 age-range own a phone which isn’t classed as “smart”, but that gap is closing quickly.
Back in Australia though, the rising popularity of smartphones is pushing up complaints about excessive charges. Data is being used more often and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman have increased in 2014 alone by 28% based on the previous year. Almost half of these complaints were for bills of more than $440, with “dozens” complaining about costs of more than $10,000. New controls are now getting rolled out by various operators to try and control the expenditure.
There’s temptation for the new owners, with YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Vine delivering all the latest gossip and updates. A cheeky check of the latest news under the desk at work, a look at your feeds when you’re in a meeting. The Annual Deloitte Media Consumer survey revealed that 54% of smartphone users now check social media daily, That’s an increase of 170% on the previous year, and 32% of Australians now get their news from social media rather than traditional TV and media outlets.
Back here in the UK its struck me that this is a familiar trend, and our constant complaints about battery life is actually, in a way, our own making. If we were to use our smartphones in the same way that we used to use our mobile phones, we would have loads of battery life left over at the end of the day. We wouldn’t be checking Twitter, Facebook or looking at things on the web. We’d just be making phone calls and perhaps texting a few people. However, this isn’t the mid-1990s any more. The way we communicate has changed. We hardly use our phones to actually, y’know, phone someone. Now we’re texting, tweeting, IM’ing and Skype-ing. It’s all about the data. It’s all about screen time.
Phones aren’t “essential” in the sense that we carry them around for mere convenience. In the early days of mobile handsets we used them because they were a better option than walking to the nearest phone box. Now we use them because we simply HAVE to monitor our social networks. We simply have to keep in touch with the news, or the latest football scores, or as a way to fill the time when we’re waiting for the bus.
So now that more and more countries are reaching smartphone saturation point, and now that we’re using them less for convenience and more as “fun gadgets”, what would happen if your employer banned your phone?
Security, in a lot of companies, rubs shoulders uncomfortably with the “BYOD” (Bring Your Own Device) philosophy. However, even in companies where security is paramount, they still allow personal mobiles in. Why is this? Is it because an employer wouldn’t dare? Perhaps because they would upset the workforce too much? What if your employer gave you a standard “dumb phone” that did nothing but make calls, and you had to leave your smartphone at home. Would you rebel? Would you leave the company? Would you argue that it was an essential item? Could you actually argue that updating your Facebook status and perhaps checking the latest YouTube video is something you positively, absolutely need to do?
It’s a tricky subject, and a fine line for companies to walk along. With smartphones now at saturation point, they are commonplace and are seen as part and parcel of an employee. Part of a person. Almost like when smoking was allowed in offices long ago. Could there ever be a time when, just like cigarettes, smartphones are banished to the carpark ?