I'm up in Newfoundland visiting relatives. Sure, there are smart phones here in the easternmost province of Canada. But because I don't want to pay huge data roaming fees, I opted to buy a prepaid mobile phone with basic services (phone and text).
The results? Eye-popping.
On this prepaid phone, I can call people and text people. That's it. I can't roam the mobile internet and ask Google what's around me. I can't see how my social network is faring. I can't find deals from Groupon in my inbox. I don't even have an inbox. What does this tell us?
There's a Mobile Divide, too
When we talk about "digital divide," we sometimes use this term to describe the lack of access to internet infrastructure. The conversation often falls along poverty or race lines; but the digital divide is mix of culture, with one part provisioning and one part economics.
The mobile divide, meanwhile, is the gap between those people who use smart phones and those who don't. Yet.
Does It Matter? Do We Need Smartphones?
Yes. I think that the genie is out of the bottle with mobile computing. The new dial tone is wherever we choose to be reached, and fewer and fewer people seek to be reached by voice. At a minimum, we want email. At a maximum, we want our Facebook and our Twitter and our Foursquare (not me, but you might) and our Google. Heck, without a smartphone, I lack maps. I lack orienteering to the outside world. I lack the annotation of Yelp.
We can get by with a simple mobile device, but I believe we're missing the larger picture without the smartphone.
And yes, I realize that this is a first-world problem, and that people in many communities would be happy with any kind of communications device. (And yes, Canada is actually pretty wired, even in rural spots.) That's not the point of this post. The point is that in places where technology is supposedly ubiquitous, there's a new divide.
What's Your Take?
I'm going to presume you have a smartphone of some kind. You might not have the latest Android or iPhone 4 or whatever, but chances are, your phone can receive and transmit more than calls and texts. How much more of the Internet are you using from your phone these days? Could you live without it? What do you say?
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