News Column

Apple Changed Our Relationship With Technology

Oct. 5, 2011

Dan Kelly

Steve Jobs

Although Apple founder Steve Jobs is retired, the impact he and the company have had on the lives of people is undeniable.

If you don't own an Apple product, such as the iPhone 4S that was introduced Tuesday and becomes available Oct. 14, chances are you own one from another manufacturer who tried to make a PC-based operating system that was as user-friendly as an Apple.

The latest evidence of the impact Jobs and the iPhone have had on society is that the smartphone is being used less and less as a phone.

That was borne out in a small survey of smartphone users Tuesday in the Broadcasting Square Shopping Center in Spring Township.

Of six smartphone users between 18 and 34 who were asked the three things they use their mobile device for most, only one mentioned phone calls.

Texting, social media like Twitter and Facebook, and Web surfing for school, business or recreation were the top three responses.

"I don't like to talk on the phone," said Jovanny Madera, 19, of Temple. "I text."

Summer Tagnani, a 34-year-old hospice nurse from Hamburg, said she almost never makes phone calls to her co-workers on her smartphone because she doesn't want to interrupt a colleague during patient care.

"You send a text," Tagnani said. "My mother is 62 and has a smartphone and she texts me more than calls me. I can order prescriptions on the Internet, monitor my schedule, check to see if any of my co-workers need supplies.

"I almost never use it to make phone calls."

Besides, in bad reception areas, a text will go through when a phone call won't, she added.

Dr. Robert Everett, a former marketing professor at Alvernia University and the University of Maryland, said Jobs understands a key principal of marketing.

"I call it 'Everett's first rule of marketing': People aren't buying a product or service; they're buying an experience, the feeling they get when they own a product or service and how it makes them feel about themselves," Everett said.

People who rush out to be the first one in school or the office to have the latest iPhone aren't concerned so much about what they can do with it as what it does for their status among friends, co-workers and family, Everett said.

Smartphones also have shifted a societal paradigm.

"As a culture, we're experiencing information going from what had once been a scarce commodity on the planet to a flood," Everett said. "What Steve Jobs did was make it cool."

It may be 10 years before we fully understand the impact smartphones will have on our society, said Wil Lindsay, professor of digital media at Albright College.

Lindsay said he specializes in research into how technical advances affect society.

The wristwatch is a good example of how taking a long-term look at a new technology can be used to evaluate change, he said.

"The wristwatch is either a symptom or a driver in how we became obsessed with time," he said. "The same thing is happening now, but instead of time it's data."

Dr. Jodi Radosh, associate professor of English and communications at Alvernia, said Jobs and Apple put advanced information and technology in the hands of the average person.

"Way back you really had to be a smarty to have a computer," Radosh said. "Not anymore. Now my children are better at using my iPhone than I am."

If there is a downside, Radosh said the digital divide is becoming more evident. Some seniors either refuse to or are slow to adapt to technological advances like computers and smartphones, and parents have to make sure their children's play times aren't consumed by computers and cellphones.

That said, the technology that Jobs, Apple and other computer and smartphone makers have made easily accessible to the public has forever changed our daily lives.

"Right now, my smartphone is more useful than my computer," Radosh said.

Source: (c) 2011 the Reading Eagle (Reading, Pa.)

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