Do you remember life before Facebook or Twitter or your Blackberry? In the past few years, we have moved beyond chat rooms and community forums to life-casting platforms that can be updated via your mobile phone. You can upload your son’s 1st soccer goal on YouTube, before the game is over. As we move forward, technology has accelerated the pace of our lives, enabled us to connect to the web with a pocket-sized device and opened our lifestyle to the world in ways that were not possible only a few short years ago. We will explore mobile technology’s influence in a network society by exploring smart phones, apps, privacy and Gen Y:
The Rapid Growth of Smart Phones
Mobile technology is advancing our ability to connect and share information in ways that were not possible even a couple of years ago. Consider the rapid rise of smart phones. Your iPhones, BlackBerrys, Droids are becoming staples in the mobile market. RIM is the US leader in smart phone devices, with 42% of the market in Feb 2010. The creatives answer to the smart phone (Apple’s iPhone 3GS), took second place with 25% market share and the largest growth comes from Google, with a jump from 4% in Nov 2009 to 9% in Feb 2010. With smart phone technology spreading to “the next billion” in China and India, it’s not hard to imagine the technology to be a staple of the global cell phone market in the not-too-distant future.
Connecting on a Deeper Level
Smartphones enable users to engage in profound ways, using different platforms and offering a seemingly endless stream of apps. Some of the top iPhone apps are centered around connectivity and life-casting. For instance, Facebook enjoyed leadership status App Store for weeks after its release. The social network app ranks #4 in the most downloaded iPhone app with 26% penetration of installs, according to comScore. Facebook is followed closely by MySpace Mobile at #7 with 23% penetration of installs.
Next Big Growth
The next generation (Gen Y) of mobile users are not just connected, but hyper-connected — particularly through texting. The average American teenagers sent and received an average of 2,272 text messages per month in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the Nielsen Company — more than doubled the average a year earlier.
Michael Hausauer, a psychotherapist in Oakland, Calif., said to the New York Times, teenagers had a “terrific interest in knowing what’s going on in the lives of their peers, coupled with a terrific anxiety about being out of the loop.” For that reason, he said, the rapid rise in texting has is a double-edged sword: ‘Texting can be an enormous tool,” he said. “It offers companionship and the promise of connectedness. At the same time, texting can make a youngster feel frightened and overly exposed.”
Our desire to connect on a deeper level is measured by our views on privacy. Gen Y has radically different views on privacy than Gen X or Boomers. Gen Y typically has a loose definition of privacy — enabling technology to penetrate deeper in their daily lives. Could the next level of engagement be GPS-related?
Google Latitude and iPhone apps such as Loopt and FourSquare enable users to track where they’ve been while keeping updated on their contact’s locations. For instance, if you’re going to the cafe down the street, you might want to stop into the local boutique to help your friend pick out a lamp shade for her apartment.
As technology advances, it is accelerating our ability to connect through mobile devices and peeling back a layer of privacy with each evolution. While the emerging generation might be quick to adapt such technology, where does that leave Gen X and Boomers? Will they be forced to change their attitudes about privacy and technology to adapt to the next wave of mobile devices? With the popularity of life-casting social networks such as Twitter and Facebook among Gen X and Boomers, the adoption of GPS-enabled and intrusive technologies might not be in the so distant future.