Smartphone - Smartphoning it in

Passikoff: Smartphoning It In

Just to be clear, I did not ‘phone in’ this column. 

(Cue rim shot) I emailed it!

Little joke. OK, very little joke. But I wasn’t kidding. I really didn’t “phone it in,” a phrase that sounds innocuous enough in an age of smartphones and video calls but continues to confer the notion of doing something with low enthusiasm or effort. I assure you, I spend a great deal of thought, time, and effort on these columns – no matter what my editor says!

The irony is that “phoning it in” is inextricably linked to the world of journalism. In the 1930’s, when reporters were chasing their next big story and didn’t have time to sit down and write a full piece, they’d call their editor and tell them the story over the phone, aka “phone it in.” 

Considering the ubiquity of smartphones today, I probably couldn’t be faulted if I had phoned it in. I’m not sure there’s a stronger word to use than “ubiquity” when it comes to smartphones. Maybe “omnipresence,” because 86% of the world’s population owns one, a number that increases to 91% in the United States. And we’re not shy about using them.

The average American checks their phone every 2 minutes 24 seconds and, on average, uses their smartphone five hours, 24 minutes per day. That works out to 81 days each year and if that sounds like a lot, it is. The bad news is 60% of users say they’re “addicted” to their smartphone. The not-so-good news is only 51% actually suffer from nomophobia (NO MObilePHone phoBIA), a psychological condition when users have a fear of being detached from their mobile phones!

The more-troubling news is that kind of dependence has diminished attention levels. Pretty significantly in some cases but pretty consistently across age segments, with current generational cohort smartphone-penetration looking like this:

Millennials: 95%

Gen X: 89%

Gen-Z: 75%

Baby Boomers: 70%

And here’s everyone’s doing:

Texting: 91%

Photos: 89%

Emails: 84%

Voice Calls: 80%

Internet: 76%

Shopping: 74%

Social Networking: 72%

Now, I’m not a Luddite. But I’m also not what you’d call an early-adopter technophile. So, when it comes time to purchase a new smartphone for myself, I look deep inside myself, and evaluate my usage and my needs. And then I call my son, Alex. (Yes, the same tall, handsome one who’s helped me with some other columns in the past) and have him talk me through current options. He knows this stuff!

When it comes to the phone part of “smartphone” all brands operate at pretty much an acceptable level, albeit when I say, “Call Alex,” my “voice assistant” replies in some sort of pseudo-European accent I haven’t been able to change in settings. But call Alex he/she/it does, and I’m able to speak and hear clearly, and he me. But as voice calls are 4th on the list of stuff Americans do with their smartphones, there’s other things to consider.

If you watch the ads, Samsung is mostly about how the phone folds in half, doubles screen size, allows multitasking, and attracts teenage girls. Apple has traditionally owned the design territory, but the foldable-phone has proven an effective foray into the design arena for Samsung.

Most smartphones already take high-quality photographs. New to this year’s iPhone lineup is the option to capture photos in Apple’s default HEIF format but at the max 48 MP resolution the sensor is capable of capturing. Now I don’t know what any of that means but it sounds pretty professional to me!

There’s other stuff. You can edit and “erase” people or objects you don’t want in your photo on the Google smartphone. The iPhone is made of titanium now (which I know is in my golf clubs, so maybe if I carry it with me I can cut 6 strokes from my game!) Motorola phones are low cost and have good battery life. Anyway, Alex knows how I use my phone and is up on all the upgrades and lingo, so he’s my go-to tech guy.

Based on share of market, brand choice seems to come down to Apple or Samsung, brands that see-saw back and forth when it comes to being #1 in our annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index. Probably because the choice between them ultimately depends on shifting personal preferences and tech needs and innovation, and each brand has its own strengths, with smartphone SOM currently looking like this:

Apple: 58%

Samsung: 29%

Motorola: 5%

Google: 3%

LG: 1%

All Other: 4%

Share and loyalty are critical, but here are some factors my son mentioned that you might want to consider. There’s no particular order, just notes I made from Alex’s insights.

1. Apple iPhones run on iOS. Samsung smartphones use Android. There are pros and cons to both.

2. Hardware: Both offer powerful hardware. iPhones come with Apple’s custom-designed chips, offering excellent performance and energy efficiency. Samsung’s feature powerful processors and vibrant displays.

3. App Ecosystem: Both platforms have robust app stores. However, some apps launch on one platform before the other, so release-timing could be a consideration.

4. Design and Build Quality: Apple is renowned for sleek, minimalist design, premium build quality, and attention to detail. And now, titanium! Samsung phones, also have high-quality designs, featuring curved displays and glass backs.

5. Customization: The Samsung Android OS offers more customization options. Apple’s iOS is more restrictive.

6. Battery Life: A crucial factor but its importance will vary depending on individual needs and usage.

7. Price Range: Samsung offers a wider range of price points. Apple tends to be more expensive.

8. Ecosystem Integration: If you’re already invested in a particular ecosystem, it might influence your choice. If you use a Mac or iPad or Apple Watch, an iPhone will seamlessly integrate.

9. Camera: As noted, today most smartphones offer excellent cameras. What’s “best” will vary model-to-model and on your specific needs. And whether the ability to set a default focal length, ranging between 24 mm to 35 mm equivalents, is important to you or means anything at all!

I’m pretty sure there were other things Alex mentioned, but I was checking my email and kind of zoned out.

But  there is one other thing Alex said that I do remember. “It’s OK to own a technology. It’s not OK to be owned by technology.”

See? Tall, handsome, and smart!

Photo by Marie-Michèle Bouchard on Unsplash

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