Experts say effect of smartphones far-reaching

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I was recently interviewed by Derek Smith from the Daily Reporter of Greenfield, Indiana. Derek was writing an article about smartphones and wanted to get some of my perspectives on smartphones and how they impact our daily lives. You can read the full article below.

CELL PHONES: THE NEXT HIGH-TECH DINOSAUR? Greenfield Daily Reporter Article

Upwardly mobile Experts say effect of smartphones far-reaching

By DEREK R. SMITH
dsmith@greenfieldreporter.com

GREENFIELD — A week after buying his iPad, Brad Main is still trying to grasp all the things he can do with Apple’s hot-selling mobile device.

“I got this instead of a phone because you can do moreSkype on an iPad,” Main said Friday while enjoying a break at Starbucks in Greenfield. Skype is an application that lets users make voice calls over the Internet.

Main works in Greenfield but travels a lot. He communicates by Skype at a cost of pennies on the dollar compared to the price of an international phone call. He also downloaded Facebook to his iPad to help him keep in touch with family, friends and long-lost classmates.

Although he wouldn’t type a letter on his iPad, Main thinks such mobile devices will have long-reaching effects on how people live, work and communicate.

“I firmly expect that the laptop computer will be in a museum in 25 years,” he said.

Ball State communications expert Michael Hanley predicted last December that 2010 would be “the year of the smartphone” as millions of Americans upgrade from standard cell phones.

Hanley now thinks he may have underestimated the impact that smartphones are having on our lives. Whether we’re at an airport or waiting for a bus, smartphones are useful in keeping us connected and entertained when we’re on the go, he said.

Although the iPad – a touch-screen, handheld device for reading books, browsing the web and a host of other applications – isn’t technically a smartphone, “the iPad frenzy has turned up the heat” of consumer interest in mobile technologies, Hanley said.

Smartphones merge computer and communications technologies. Instead of just taking calls and keeping contacts, smartphones like a Blackberry or iPhone allow us to do things like record video, send and receive e-mail, browse the Internet and work on documents.

“Mobile is more for ‘snacking’ than eating a big meal,” Hanley said. “It’s based on the amount of free time you have, and it’s also based on your location.”

Mobile ‘snacks’ might not sound like a communications revolution, but the free time adds up to an estimated four to six hours a day, Hanley added.

Local technology expert Greg Cross doesn’t see why anyone would buy a standard cell phone today instead of a smartphone. “My smartphone becomes a conduit for me,” he said. “It opens up the creativity.”

Take, for instance, the ability to interact with others worldwide through social networking sites like Twitter, which allows people to communicate in “Tweets” of up to 140 characters.

“The smartphone only helps to perpetuate the whole social media game,” said Cross, owner of Cross Creative, a Greenfield based web design and digital marketing firm. “Do you have to have a smartphone to use Twitter? No, but people who are avid users of Twitter have that on their phone.”

Hanley, director of Ball State’s Institute for Mobile Media Research, has been researching college students’ communication trends for seven years. In March, 49 percent of surveyed Ball State students said they have smartphones – up from 27 percent in a February 2009 survey. “It is a truly amazing growth of a technology, almost doubling in one year,” Hanley said. “College students are kind of leading the charge.”

Technologies for smartphones continue to develop at a breakneck pace. February data showed an across-the-board rise in the percentages of smartphone subscribers using their phones for sending text messages, using a web browser, downloading “apps,” playing games, accessing social networking sites like Facebook and listening to music, according to comScore, the digital marketing intelligence firm.

Android, an open-source operating system for smartphones, has been shaking up the smartphone marketplace in recent months. Google allows any mobile phone manufacturer to integrate the Android operating system into their phones, while other companies like Apple have proprietary systems.

With Android, Google has seen rapid gains in smartphone market share as more companies have introduced Android compatible devices. However, Research in Motion – maker of the Blackberry devices – continues to lead the pack of smartphone manufacturers, while Apple has remained steady in recent months at about 25 percent market share, according to February data from comScore.

The latest numbers show that 31 percent of American mobile subscribers 18 and older use smartphones, Hanley said. But have we really reached the tipping point where the average consumer will want to buy a smartphone? Not everybody has a smartphone – or even wants one.

Greenfield resident Michelle Embry bought a Samsung Galaxy after breaking her Blackberry. “When I broke it, I didn’t have insurance, so I had to downgrade,” Embry said. The cost difference was the deciding factor, she added. Embry was willing to pay about $125 more for a smartphone, but she said the cost difference was $299. Embry loves to text on her Galaxy phone, but she misses some of the things she used to do with her Blackberry. “It has no way to link to the computer,” Embry said of her Galaxy. “Everything has to be sent by text message and downloaded.”

Embry’s friend Michelle Allen has a good grasp of smartphone technologies, yet she prefers to use a pre-paid Virgin Mobile phone. She says she doesn’t use her cell phone much and has a landline phone with unlimited long-distance.

“I think people are way too addicted to their phones,” Allen said. “People are too busy doing this (looks down and acts as if she’s texting) to pay attention to all that’s going on around them.” Others are excited about the possibilities of what’s to come.

Cross thinks we haven’t yet gotten a true sense of all the smartphone technologies that will be coming down the pike. He and Hanley expect smartphone technologies to spur another trend: a rise in mobile marketing.

Dairy Queen, for example, sends coupons directly to Cross’s smartphone. He has also seen this type of mobile marketing at sporting events, with an advertisement urging a captive audience to text a number for a special deal.

With more than 200 million American cell phone users, mobile marketing represents the fastest-growing advertising method, according to Indy Mobile Marketing, a Fishers business that specializes in such strategies. Forty percent of major brands have already developed mobile marketing campaigns, according to the firm’s Web site, http://indymm.com. The site lists 47 Indianapolis-area companies that have a text messaging customer list.

“Couponing has grown rapidly in the last two or three years,” Hanley said. “There are no boundaries to text something to any person on any (phone) carrier.” More dynamic advertising ads need to be more carrier-specific, he added. The overall economy underpins the rate of growth in mobile advertising, Hanley said.

While the recession has slowed such efforts, many advertising agencies are starting to hire and pump more money into mobile advertising strategies, he added. Smartphones have built-in global positioning system (GPS) technology that can transmit where you’re located at any given time. The implications for advertisers are obvious: nearby customers can receive special offers direct to their cell phones that entice them to buy a particular product.

Despite the new marketing technologies, Cross believes that understanding your audience remains a key to mobile marketing success. Another application for the GPS technology is popular games like Four Squarethat allow people to “check in” at thousands of places. You earn points and badges based on the number of times you check in and can also see where your friends are located. “It’s another tool for us to connect,” Cross said, “but you’re doing it all through your cell phone.”

Smartphone apps like Yelp and Fandango allow you to locate area businesses in a matter of seconds, Cross said.

Cross, 47, said it’s especially important for his generation to keep up with the newer technologies. “You’re going to have to get on it, or you’re going to get left behind,” Cross said. “I don’t think this stuff is that hard to learn. Maybe that’s just because I have such an affinity for it.”

The iPad is just the second Apple product that Main has ever owned. As he caught up on his e-mail at Starbucks Friday, he reflected on the future of emerging mobile technologies. Main said he’s started a Twitter account since getting his iPad, but he hasn’t figured out Twitter’s nuances quite yet. “It’s sort of like cell phones when they started out,” Main said of the iPad. “It’s probably a whole new thing that (we’ll get a full sense of all it can do) in two or three years.”

Among Hanley’s 2010 predictions is that many more Americans will watch live television on their smartphones. He also expects Google to challenge Apple, with Google emerging as a major player in mobile advertising.

Cross carries a Samsung Moment smartphone that has the Android operating system. He expects future mobile technologies to involve much more video and live television programming. He says a Sprint smartphone called the Evo will pave the way for mobile videoconferencing. “It’s going to make our lives more dynamic in the truest sense of the word,” Cross said of the emerging technologies. “The boundaries are unlimited. It’s just a matter of what the creative minds can put to (our) touch.”


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About Greg Cross

Greg Cross is the President and CEO of Cross Creative Marketing, a small business focused marketing company specializing in websites, social media, branding, and contact management and email marketing strategies. Their clients include Cynthias Hallmark Stores, 12 Stars Media, Hancock Regional Hospital and many more. Follow Greg on Twitter @gregorycross and LIKE on Facebook

  • Jepii56

    I had posted a question on the expert “ask an expert ” earlier, but had trouble finding the way to pay the service. I would appreciate your help. Thank you, Jim “James “

  • i<3tacos

    This article was really absorbing. I liked that Derek focused on the positive aspects of the smartphone unlike some articles that say that smartphones are horrible and ruining basic social interactions. I myself love my smartphone and use it all the time. It is really helpful and I can’t imagine life without it.

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