Oftentimes, the true impact of an innovation isn’t understood until it has been around for awhile. When cell phones were first introduced, and as their usage began to proliferate, they simply seemed like incredibly convenient things to have at hand. Only recently, as mobile phone applications expand and diversify, are we beginning to appreciate the many ways these slim devices can have an effect on our lives.
Obviously, mobile phones are convenient for their primary use: making calls when away from home. But they’ve changed our lives in ways few of us anticipated. We’ve gone from phone calls to text messaging to having our e-mail forwarded right into our pockets. Concerned parents have progressed from an easy way to reach independent-minded teenagers to double-checking their location through GPS tracking in phones. People with medical concerns can utilize mobile phone health management, reporting or reviewing test results via their cell phones. Technology is even in the works to make truly mobile diabetes management, with sensors attached to a phone that can measure and transmit biological data such as blood glucose levels. We utilize these handy machines to organize our lives: calendars and reminders help us remember appointments, alarm clocks are set to make sure we arise or leave on time, and the assorted phone numbers for our necessary contacts, from good friends to the neighborhood pizza joint, are stored in our contact lists. If you don’t think we’ve come to rely on mobile phones, just remember the desperation and slight panic you felt last time you misplaced yours.
As with any innovation, there are drawbacks. Who’s to say if we’re reducing our brainpower, now that we no longer rely on our own memories for phone numbers? Simple skills required in an emergency, such as changing a tire, are no longer developed because they’re so rarely needed. Why get out the jack when you can simply call your motor club? In the past, leaving the office usually meant leaving work behind. Now, it’s a lot more difficult to be unreachable. Clients, bosses—even parents!—expect their messages to be returned in short order.
Yet, most of us are willing to subject ourselves to these demands in return for the incredible convenience of mobile communication. Who knows where it will take us next?