OPINION: Newest evolution of cellphones


Cellphones have come a long way very quickly. Big bulky cells whose only purpose was to talk to others seems almost barbaric to many people nowadays. The Art Institute, in their article “The History and Evolution of Cell Phones,” detailed its lifespan so far, from their beginning as car phones up until what they are today.

My first experience with a cellphone, that I can remember, is sitting in a class in middle school, flipping it in the air out of boredom. Predictably, it eluded me and smacked to the ground, and the screen stopped working. I tried messing with the power button, with my friends laughing at me in the background, which didn’t work. Finally out of frustration and probably some other things, I threw it back to the floor. If the floor broke it, it could fix it too, you know? And it turned back on.

As impressive as that cellphone was, they’ve gotten even more so. The Pew Research Center released an April 1 article titled “U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015,” where they reported all kinds of statistics on the smartphone.

The piece in this report that stuck out to me the most was what U.S. users are using their smartphones for. Huge percentage chucks of those surveyed indicated that they used their cellphones for things like getting information about a health condition, online banking, looking up real estate listings, job information, government services or information, submitting a job application or even taking a class or getting educational content.

No longer are cellphones primarily good for dropping on your face as you look up at them – people are increasingly running their entire lives from them.

Pew, in addition to this study, also conducted one on cellphones outside of the U.S. On April 15, they published an article titled “Cell Phones in Africa: Communication Lifeline,” which further demonstrates the proliferation and ever-increasing usefulness of cell phones.

The article detailed a huge surge in African cellphone ownership, and it showed that they are using them for a lot of the same important things we do. Their cat pictures are probably a bit more dangerous to take, but Pew showed a wide use for things like texting, taking pictures, making or receiving payments, reading political news, getting health information, looking or applying for a job and others.

On the same continent, there is yet another important, even revolutionary use for the cellphone. Dan Glickman published an opinion article on June 10, in National Geographic, titled “How Cell Phones Can Help End World Hunger,” where he said that “digital infrastructure may be the most powerful tool in battling the worldwide epidemic of malnutrition.”

He explains, with details of the people he met on a trip to Tanzania, that cellphones are being used by farmers to alert and give advice about pest problems, grass selection, preventing livestock infection, weather forecasts, fertilizer prices and more resilient seeds, all of which help these farmers with their livelihoods. And there are, of course, other examples out there in the world of people finding clever, new uses for the pocket-sized super technology in the name of progress.

In this case, Glickman concludes that “more than half of the planet’s arable yet unused farmland can be found in Africa, where millions of small farmers lack access to basic infrastructure and information. By empowering small farmers like the women I met in Tanzania with information, and with cellphone technology, we can raise millions of families out of hunger and poverty.”

And that, really, ties us back to the Art Institute’s article on the evolution of the cellphone. In the article, Patricia Grullon, an Industrial Design instructor at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, said it’s not just about how we change the cellphone, but, as Grullon said, “the question is, how will the cellphone change us?”