They are evolving. Natural selection has eliminated the weak―the slow, the boring, the outdated.
Cell phones aren’t what they used to be.
They have adapted in shape, size, and, most importantly, purpose. Although cell phones were initially meant for talking, that seems to be the least important function nowadays.
According to a study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the average cell phone call has declined to 2.3 minutes―the shortest it has been since the 1990s.
Blair Gould ’15 said she rarely uses the once-revered calling feature on her cell phone.
“I only really talk on the phone when I call my parents to ask for something,” Gould said.
Similarly, Lauren Davis ’17 prefers text messaging to talking on the phone because it’s “easier and faster.”
This rings true for most teens (no pun intended).
In the same Pew Internet and American Life study, it was found that the average teen sends over 2,000 text messages a month.
Even so, phones are no longer merely a tool of verbal communication. In addition to texting, teens and adults use their cell phones for snapping photos, listening to music, surfing the web, and updating social media―all the functions of a compact computer rather than of a telephone.
Eryn Lorberbaum ’14 noticed that this multimedia explosion began with the Blackberry smartphone. It was first released in the late 1990s, which is not-so-coincidentally when the average American’s call duration began to decrease. Although the Blackberry was originally intended for businessmen and women in need of 24/7 access to emails, many teens jumped at the opportunity, too.
With this shift in use, many cell phone companies have been unable to keep up while others have clawed their way to the top.
As in natural selection, the survival of a cell phone depends on the success of certain technological qualities. Advancements that prove to be popular―such as front-facing cameras and touch screens―are then reproduced in newer, sleeker models.
Conversely, cell phones with undesirable or useless qualities fail to survive on the market and therefore die off.
And what sits comfortably at the top of the food chain?
The iPhone has practically eliminated all other competition. It has preyed on the flimsy flip phones from the early 2000s, pushing them to near extinction.
“Back when everyone had flip phones, it was cool if someone could even take pictures,” Steven Sobel ’14 said.
Similarly, Riley Thrush ’17 recalls her first phone: a hot pink Razor.
“I thought it was literally the coolest phone ever,” Thrush said. “I remember a lot of girls had them back then, but now they are so outdated.”
The brilliant range of color and vast selection of apps on the iPhone surpasses the capabilities of prehistoric flip phones. Its high-resolution screen, multi-touch screen, high-definition camera, and sleek display make it all the more difficult to resist.
“I’m pretty sure I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have an iPhone,” Thrush remarked.
In fact, Lorberbaum has noticed that currently a vast majority of middle schoolers, and even elementary schoolers, have been getting their own cell phones.
“I personally don’t think they should have them,” Lorberbaum said. “When I was younger, my friends and I would run around outside, play on the swings, go to the beach, play board games. Now we have everything available to us in the palm of our hands―literally―and kids just have their eyes glued to a screen.”