As smartphone functionality has increased, so has the time we spend on themby Chris Tilbury / October 19, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in November 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
In 2007, Steve Jobs unveiled a new gadget—a music player, phone and internet browser in one: the iPhone. It didn’t matter that geeks already had mobiles that hooked up to the web. Jobs’s patter convinced us that smartphones were the future—and the world hasn’t looked back. Between Apple itself, Sony, Samsung and others, almost 1.5bn of them have been shipped this year, as in each year since 2015.
Indeed, total smartphone shipments since 2014 are not far off the number of people on Earth.
As well as being de rigueur in the prosperous west, they are used by—to take random examples—two thirds of Azerbaijanis, a majority of Russians and Chinese, and nearly a fifth of Nigerians. The scope to facilitate business in regions like sub-Saharan Africa is real and enormous.
But closer to home, how much smartphone use is truly useful or even enjoyable, and how much is simply compulsion? Expanding functionality, social media—and the linked fear of missing out—make these devices hard to put down.
The average UK user is now eyeballing their palm for two and half hours daily; 62 per cent of Brits say they couldn’t live without their phone; half confess to needing it with them at all times.
More than a third recognise a problem—feeling they use it too much, rising to nearly two-thirds of the youngest. People worry about their family—especially their kids.
Even Apple investors are getting uneasy: in January they pressured the company to make people more aware of their smartphone use.
The result is Screen Time, a feature that allows users to track and cap their use of specific app groups—spend too long playing Angry Birds and no amount of swiping or tapping will let you carry on.
From the margins to must-have in a decade