Early last week, I ended a long-term relationship, a partnership of sorts that had been going strong for the last five or so years. At first, I was hesitant to make the break, but in hindsight I should have gone out on my own months ago.
I finally ended my Sprint wireless contract and now carry just one mobile device.
For years I’ve used my career to justify having multiple mobile service agreements and device upgrades. How else could I articulately speak to different domestic service offerings or data packages and features? But in reality, I’ve been working toward this moment ever since the ESPN MVNO became defunct.
The final straw came recently when I was pulled out of line at Orange County’s airport for “additional” security screening. A very kind older woman spent a good 15 minutes contemplating the contents of my carryon bag, which contained two phones, a laptop, a video iPod, and a Nintendo DS. She finally looked up at me and politely asked if my husband and children were meeting me at the gate (because really, why would a single 30-something need so many gadgets?). No sooner had I gotten off the plane and back to the office, then I called our corporate cell phone provider to begin the process of porting my Sprint number over to my BlackBerry.
The process was incredibly easy. This past weekend, I got my first taste of freedom. Even though the BlackBerry is now almost eight months old, it was as if it were brand new and I was setting it up for the first time. Before the weekend got into full swing, I switched my background themes, downloaded some ring tones, and, after a couple failed attempts, figured out how to separate my e-mail and SMS (define)/MMS (define) messages into two applications. I even enjoyed populating the address book by hand as a kind of cathartic purge. The final step in personalization was reordering my application screen so that those features I wanted easy access to were front and center (camera, e-mail, SMS/MMS, Facebook, and the alarm).
According to a Q4 2008 Pew Internet & American Life Project report (PDF download), I’m not the only one using my QWERTY keyboard for all it has to offer. Nearly 60 percent of U.S. adults surveyed use a mobile phone or PDA for at least one key data activity. Data activities were defined as sending/receiving text messages, taking pictures, playing games, sending/receiving e-mail, or accessing the Internet for news, weather, sports, or other information. I managed to partake in all these activities minus the game play in less than 24 hours. But before you count me out as too advanced a mobile user, consider some further data points released in an October 2007 Deloitte Development and Harrison Group study of U.S. Internet users.
When segmenting mobile content activities by age, 75 percent of respondents 25 to 41 years old still took camera photos via an embedded mobile camera. This same demographic also sent or received test messages. Further, 46 percent of this age group accessed the mobile Web, and 40 percent sent or received e-mail. It seems that mobile data functions are no longer dominated by youth segments.
That said, I’ll be the first to continue to push for marketplace education around advanced features. There’s still a long way to go in converting the majority of mobile users from just voice to voice plus data.
On that same note, there isn’t yet one device that has it all or does it all (despite my newfound happiness in my BlackBerry). I hadn’t fully realized until now that my two devices were actually hurting me more than they were helping. I’d segmented their purposes to a degree that was actually limiting how I leveraged mobile data. Instead of clumsily managing two devices, I’ve now moved on to a simpler life consisting of just one device that I’m happy to say supports all my all my texting, photo-taking, and uploading to Facebook.