The Phone Is Dead, Long Live The Phone.


old_phoneWhen I purchased my first mobile phone back in 1998. I thought I was so cool to have such bleeding edge technology. I remember paying a ridiculous price per call and text, on top of my monthly fee. I barely used it, except for an emergency. Most of my calls were to landlines or pagers, and I could count the number of text messages I made each month on one hand. I was the first of my friends to get a cellphone, and it took several years for that to change.

Nowadays, people think you are some sort of Luddite if you don’t have a cellphone. To take things a step further, when was the last time you saw someone with a flip phone? Even my Grandma has upgraded to an Android device. Even young children are getting phones at a younger age, and they seem to be programmed from birth to understand mobile UIs. The smartphone, in all of it’s majesty, has been a mainstream necessity.

Time to kill the smartphone.

I recently read a few articles where influential members of the tech world are claiming that the cellphone is either dying, or already dead. At first, I laughed at the idea, since the majority of the planet are constantly glued to their phone screens. How can something so important be dead?

phone_toilet2I began to examine my daily smartphone usage. I browse Facebook and Twitter for a bit each morning before I roll out of bed. I answer emails while hovering over a bowl of Cap’n Crunch. I check the news feeds while my coffee brews, and of course I scroll through Reddit while I make my morning bowel movement. (Don’t judge me, I know you do it too!)

Throughout my day, I’ll send and receive text messages, Facebook chats, and the occasional LinkedIn DM. I’ll check the traffic at the end of the day, and message my wife to let her know when I’m coming home from work. Pandora pumps jazz into my car’s Bluetooth, and Google Maps will find me an alternate route because of a wreck up ahead on the highway. In the evening, my children will send me links to funny YouTube videos, or ‘dank memes’ that I already saw on Reddit earlier that morning. Before bed, I check to see if my alarm is still set, take a peek at tomorrow’s calendar, and drop my phone into the charger for a fresh start in the morning.

I don’t make phone calls on my phone.

Somewhere along the line, my phone stopped being a phone. It became something else. In fact, the need to talk to someone using the voice function on this device has become its least important feature.

If we go back to the late 90s, the cost of a phone call or text message was high, so I barely used it for it’s primary purpose. As voice and text costs came down, I felt more inclined to use it more frequently. With the introduction of data to my phone, I was hesitant to use it due to the cost per kilobyte, and the horribly small screen. Smartphones came along, data plans dropped in price, and my phone transformed into a ‘pocket computer’.

kid_phoneI recently had a conversation with a few Millennials. Most of them agreed that their generation barely makes voice calls on their cellphones. Text messages, chat programs, and social media has removed their need to actually talk to anyone. This generation has grown up in a world where landlines are rare, and a phone booth is a confusing relic.

It’s interesting to think that this technology was invented for the purpose of wireless voice communication, and now that purpose is no longer needed. I’d like to think that ‘dead’ isn’t the right word though. ‘Evolved’ is a better description for the current state of cellphones. In the future, we may even ditch other primary functions of this device, in favor of new ones, such as VR and AR.

Oops… looks like I missed a call while I was writing this. I hope they don’t leave a voicemail.