How Smartphones Changed Consumerism
Telephones have come a long way. Cellular phones first broke us away from the tether that landline telephones used to anchor us to our homes. Being out and about and not having to worry about communication with friends and family was a welcome addition to daily living.
And now we have smartphones. The word “telephone” is almost antiquated at this point because smartphones are so far advanced from the first phones that it’s virtually incomprehensible. From the very first smartphone called the Simon Personal Communicator back in 1994, all the way to the iPhone 12 today, these devices have done much to give us easier access to all sorts of things, including easy access to the things we want to buy.
Greater convenience has always been a top priority among consumers, and smartphones have provided more convenient buying options across dozens of industries. These days you can buy everything from short term disability insurance to a new house, all with a few swipes and taps. Meanwhile, most of us already take for granted the ability to instantly request items and services like groceries and rideshare.
Back in the day, it was never so easy to order things over the phone. You had to make sure you had the right number if you didn’t have a phonebook. Now you can look up pretty much any business’ phone number in the palm of your hand. Browsing through paper catalogs to find exactly what you needed was a pain. Now you can see the entire stock on the website of the place you wish to patronize and spend your money easily from wherever you happen to be, be it at home, the office, or even at a friend’s place.
Naturally, none of those previous methods of finding products and services was terrible. It was just massively improved by the advent of phones that also had great computing powers. Bringing these devices with us anywhere we go has given us the ability to access this information faster and more efficiently than ever.
For some people, the option of ordering groceries through an app without ever having to speak to another person is a great boon. This was available at many places before smartphones became ubiquitous, but it was nowhere as easy as today. Stores now have entire departments dedicated to deliveries processed through smartphone apps.
This ease of access has not been without controversy, however. The taxi industry had some grumblings when rideshare services like Uber and Lyft became widely available to consumers. Taxi drivers had to get permits and go through some bureaucratic red tape, whereas all a rideshare driver needed was a valid driver’s license and vehicle. And even within the rideshare scene, there is some contention, as the drivers are currently considered independent contractors. Still, many workers and consumers feel that they should be classified as employees, giving them better protection on the job (such as insurance and better management protocols).
And since we have the internet at our fingertips, advertising has also gotten a big kick into high gear. When your target audience can now be anywhere and everywhere, you have to change how you sell to them, as they are no longer relegated only to the home when viewing your websites or looking at your products and services. You need to have a method available to cater to this new age of mobile consumers.
Another big industry that has been upended is the mobile gaming market. Before smartphones, the only real options for gamers on the go were portable video game systems like Nintendo Gameboy and Sega’s Game Gear. But now, independent developers can create games perfect for a mobile audience and list them on a platform with far fewer hoops to jump through. It’s bred a new type of game genre, meant to allow for enjoyable gameplay just a few minutes at a time. Video games usually need a good bit of dedicated time to fully enjoy and progress, but the mobile gaming industry now provides people with gaming in bite-sized chunks if you only have a few minutes of free time here and there.
Time will only tell how many more consumer industries will change and adapt as mobile technology increases in scope and complexity.