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May. 14 2010 - 10:15 am | 415 views | 0 recommendations | 2 comments

Huge social shift: Cellphones now used more for data than calls

Phone Prop

Image by jennlynndesign via Flickr

We knew it was coming but now the numbers are in and  it’s official.

We’re well on our way to becoming an incredibly disconnected connected society.

Key stats from a New York Times story:

- Almost 90% of US households have a mobile phone

- Number of households eliminating landlines continues to increase

- Number of voice minutes used by consumers is flat

- Number of text messages sent per  user is up by almost 50%

- Thumb voted ‘favorite digit’ as thumb strength in overall US population is increasing (okay, that wasn’t in the NYT but it’s totally true, right?)

Instead of talking on their cellphones, people are making use of all the extras that iPhones, BlackBerrys and other smartphones were also designed to do — browse the Web, listen to music, watch television, play games and send e-mail and text messages.

[...]

And for the first time in the United States, the amount of data in text, e-mail messages, streaming video, music and other services on mobile devices in 2009 surpassed the amount of voice data in cellphone calls, industry executives and analysts say.

Of course, talking on the cellphone isn’t disappearing entirely. “Anytime something is sensitive or is something I don’t want to be forwarded, I pick up the phone rather than put it into a tweet or a text,” said Kristen Kulinowski, a 41-year-old chemistry teacher in Houston. And calling is cheaper than ever because of fierce competition among rival wireless networks.

via Cellphones Now Used More for Data Than for Calls – NYTimes.com

That chemistry teacher is onto something.  Don’t you agree, Mark Zuckerberg?

Meanwhile, I’m wondering what we lose by replacing talking with texting.    Is a typed exchange a less connected experience?   Does a verbal discussion translate to a deeper relationship?

We have shorter attention spans.  We consume more, more quickly.   We walk looking at our mobile devices rather than our surroundings.    We don’t make eye contact.   We don’t talk as much.  We hear less.

We are separated by a screen.

Status updates and text messages are the new soundbite.  Will that fill us up, or leave us empty?


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  1. collapse expand

    There are really separate issues between the traditional home phone and the mobile computer we carry that happens to allow voice communications. They’re just pigeonholed as voice-centered communication devices because the cell phone carrier monopolies have locked us into their 1990s business model.
    Mobile voice communications include the ability to gather information and postpone final decisionmaking until the moment of execution- no need to make plans anymore! The research is showing that 2/3 of the time the calls are about what the callers are doing or planning to do, not about where they are.
    The shift to texting frees up the need to interrupt others (and be interrupted) by making conversations asynchronous, often again about what plans are in progress. A common pattern seems to involve prior planning by text, and then synchronizing plans by voice. Which is far more efficient use of time, but it steals revenue away from the providers. I could *almost* write a dissertation on the subject.

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