In just a few short years, handheld technology usage has skyrocketed in America. In 2004, about 65 percent of adults used cell phones. In 2015, that number jumped to 92
percent. As of 2011, about 35 percent of adults used smartphones. Just four years later, that number was documented at 68 percent. Lastly, in 2010, a mere 3 percent of adults owned a tablet device. Five years later, over 45 percent of adults have one in their home.
Today, I’d like to explore what these statistics say about how our world is changing. These numbers provide some insight into what technologies we’re gravitating toward and how they might shape our lives in the immediate future. In addition, I believe it strongly says something about how technology is marketed to and manufactured for consumers.
Will Handheld Devices Dominate the Market?
If we’re being honest, they already have. Today, 98 percent of young adults (age 18-29) own a cell phone and 86 percent own a smartphone. In fact, these statistics are from surveys taken about 2 years ago, which is relatively fresh data. However, as you can see by the dramatic changes listed above in just 5 years, I have every confidence that these numbers are even higher today.
What’s more, in 2010, 88 percent of all young adults owned a computer. In 2015, that number has dropped ten percent. That might not seem like a huge drop, but let’s put that into perspective. About 75 million individuals in America are millennials. If 88 percent of that demographic had a computer in 2010, we’d be looking at 66 million people. In 2015, that would have dropped to about 58 million, which means either the computer market lost the business of 8 million people or they’ve found a way to sell them something else — my bet is the latter.
Computers are undoubtedly still an incredibly useful piece of technology right now; 78 percent of young adults rely on one. As such, I don’t believe that they’re going to go away overnight. However, as of right now, the gap between what computers can do and what smart devices are already doing is growing smaller by the day, so it could be sooner than we think.
Some tech experts predict that most people will be able to conduct their business (personal and professional) using only their smartphone very soon. In fact, they’ve been predicting this for a while, and for some career people, this has already become a reality. The folks over at Wired predicted 3 years ago that smartphones would completely overtake computer usage, and they were right judging by the statistics above and this is the trend that we’re likely to follow.
Smartphones will continue to dominate the market, increasingly so year over year. Computers will likely merge with smartphones until there’s no need for a for anything other than a singular handheld device. Of course, manufacturers will still try to advertise our need for multiple devices, but I predict that eventually most of us will be content with just the one to handle all of our daily tasks. Although, this brings up a good point: with a single device that seemingly does everything, how will tech companies keep getting us to buy again and again?
Are Tech Companies Banking on Our Dependency?
Many of us upgrade our phones every year or two. When the newest version of our favorite device is announced, we can’t wait to get our hands on one (myself included). The way that technology is growing so quickly is exciting and has been for a long time. We all want to be a part of it and get our hands on the latest and greatest. Companies are encouraging us to do so by way of new features, better cameras, and faster processing power.
However, for those who aren’t as keen on following the newest trends, there is also a lot of speculation about something called “planned obsolescence.” This term refers to manufacturers creating a product that is planned to become obsolete within a certain amount of time. This could mean that the product is made with materials that are known not to last more than a couple of years. Others believe that it’s coded right into the operating system to start behaving poorly after a certain amount of time or it is introduced via software updates. Whatever the case may be, it’s just not profitable for companies to allow us to keep the same device for years on end. So this is one way they could be increasing our dependency on the next big thing.
The fact of the matter is, we already depend on technology and have for a while now — that’s no surprise. Smart tech plays such an important part in each of our daily lives. It’s in every home, doctor’s office, car, workplace, cafe — the list goes on. Technology is so important to us that it’s been integrated into just about everything we use. Think of every device that has Bluetooth capabilities and all the ways that are being invented to use our devices interconnectedly. This is the future of smart devices. Our world has already become intertwined with reasons for smart devices to continue to blossom. It’s just a matter of time before certain technologies merge with each other in new ways that we’ve never seen before. The convenience of smart devices definitely isn’t going anywhere; it’s simply going to evolve over time.