(+) Is the Smartphone Becoming the PC Replacement?

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

91% of all adults in the U.S. now have cell phones, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. (Details may be found at http://goo.gl/nwNBuP.) That’s more than the number of people who own computers.

Basic cell phones only place and receive telephone calls. Others add cameras. However, the real growth area lies with the intelligent cell phones that have built-in computer functionality. These are typically called “smartphones.” Let’s examine these.

Smartphones available today include the Apple iPhone, Android phones, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, and others. Besides serving as telephones, these smartphones allow the user to install and use various programs, such as web browsers, email programs, spreadsheet programs, word processors, genealogy programs, instant messaging programs, GPS navigation, and a wide variety of games. Most smartphones now have a variety of programs to choose from, including some that access and update Facebook and Twitter. In other words, smartphones are computers in the same manner as our desktop systems or laptop computers, only with much smaller display screens and tiny keyboards.

For a smaller group of users, especially in third-world countries, the smartphone may be the only computer the person owns.

Smartphones are cheaper than computers and more convenient because of their portability. Many people, myself included, now use a smartphone to surf the web more often than they use desktop computers.

I use a smartphone every day and find that I use the phone’s computer functions more than I use its telephone functions. I use my smartphone to read my email daily, surf the web, read new comments posted to newsletter articles, and even occasionally write and upload newsletter articles with it. I often use it to take pictures and occasionally also to upload those photos to the newsletter’s web site or to Picasa or Flickr. I find that I make very few phone calls with my smartphone, but I use its computer functionality every day.

Another trend is closely related: many people are now abandoning their traditional landline telephones and are switching to cell phones as their only telephone or, sometimes, to a mix of a cell phone and a VoIP (Voice over IP) computer phone. Two in five American households responding to a survey by the National Center for Health Statistics said they had no landline telephone service and used cell phones as their only means of phone communication. I count myself amongst that crowd. I use a cell phone for most calls although occasionally use a VoIP phone that places calls over the Internet. I disconnected the local telephone company’s phone line years ago.

The cost savings is impressive for those who feel they must have the mobility and the emergency service provided by a cell phone. Why have a second, landline phone from the telephone company that costs $30 a month or more when the cell phone alone will suffice?

We already have seen a number of genealogy programs become available for smartphones in the past few years.

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