In class, at work or in social situations, one will find cellphones pretty much everywhere. In recent years, most Americans have made a habit of talking and texting whenever they feel like it.
Since the rise of smartphones, however, Americans now do more than that. A wide world of Web-based opportunities is now just a touch of the fingertip and some extra bucks away from nearly half the nation. According to a November 2011 Nielsen poll, 44 percent of Americans own a smartphone.
Daniel Swackhammer Jr., owner of Wireless Zone, Chautauqua Mall's Verizon store, said smartphones assist consumers with the ways they work and play.
Daniel Swackhammer Jr., owner of the Wireless Zone, Chautauqua Mall’s Verizon store, checks the local weather on his Motorola Android phone. With the rise of geocentric apps, nearly half of Americans have made the switch to smartphones.
P-J photos by Scott Shelters
"We run into people who are heavy-duty road warriors who need a phone to get access to their home computer, connect with remote docs and that kind of thing," he said. "Then we run into people who want their Facebook and their Farmville and their Words With Friends with them at all times. It really depends on the person and the way the equipment fits their needs."
With the Internet at their fingertips, many people began to desire larger screens, creating a need for tablets, such as the iPad. Most tablets do not make calls. However, they can be used for other forms of communication.
"Basically, tablets give people access to the Internet in a larger format than a phone," Swackhammer said. "You can only make a phone so big and still put it in your pocket. It's bigger to see what you're doing. The phones have much of the same capabilities as tablets do, but what you gain with this is a larger screen so you can share what you're doing with other people. If you're showing a presentation as a salesman, you have it right here. If you're showing photographs, you've got them right here. It's a larger version of this without doing the calling."
When it comes to making a smartphone purchase, customers have several options: iPhones, Androids, BlackBerrys and others. However, according to the Nielsen poll, 71 percent of smartphone owners choose iPhone or Android operating systems. Swackhammer doesn't believe either is better than the other. However, the systems have their differences.
"The iPhone operating system is pretty consistent across all platforms - iPads, iTouches and iPods," he said. "Droid is an open architecture. Therefore, each manufacturer can tweak their version of the operating system. Going from an LG Droid to a Motorola Droid, many things are similar, but not everything is the same."
WHY PEOPLE BUY SMARTPHONES
On the surface, smartphones make for immediate expenses with higher monthly bills. However, smartphone owners can use their iPhones or Androids to save a few bucks by using them during their everyday lives. They can pull up electronic coupons at restaurants, for example.
Others, such as Jamestown Community College student Tyler Malkowski, use smartphones to play games or download apps. Malkowski tries out apps regularly, some of which he uses for his film classes, and gets rid of the ones he doesn't find useful.
With so many options at his fingertips, Malkowski was on the fence on whether his iPhone makes his life easier or just more complicated.
Those looking to get the most out of their phones might try out some geocentric apps, which have grown more popular lately. These navigational or place-based apps provide smartphone owners with information on what's around them, helping users find a certain type of restaurant, store or general location. Using a geocentric app, golfers can even determine exactly how far they are away from a hole.
A lot of cellphone consumers, particularly those who opt for simpler models, don't know about those types of apps, according to Swackhammer.
"A lot of people think a phone is just a phone still, but obviously, it can do a lot more than that," he said. "Some people think the Internet is what they get when they buy an advanced smartphone, and they don't need the Internet with them in their hands. What they don't realize is the fact that you also get things like navigation programs; things like applications that know where you are and give you information based on your locations; things that will help you do your work as well as your leisure events."
GIVE ME SOMETHING SIMPLER
If 44 percent of Americans have smartphones, then 56 percent do not.
Anneli Johnson, of Jamestown, uses an LG phone that she got for free. She doesn't want to have Internet access on her cellphone.
"I honestly don't want to be that accessible to the Internet that I need it with me everywhere I go," she said.
Sue Rhodes, of Clymer, plans to turn in her LG enV, which provides her with Internet access, for a more traditional cellphone. She'll save some money on her monthly bill by making what she called a "downgrade."
"I live out in the country, so I can't actually get reception to make a phone call," she said. "If I'm in town, I can use the Internet, but I can't out where I live. I got this phone because I liked it, but it's just not practical for where I live."
JCC student Nick Gedz has a "standard slider phone," which he uses for calling and texting, but nothing more, allowing him to save money each month.
The views expressed by Johnson, Rhodes and Gedz aren't uncommon in the Jamestown area.
"We have plenty of people we sell just standard phones to," Swackhammer said. "There certainly are people who do not, for financial reasons or lifestyle reasons, want smartphones."
Johnson wonders how much longer she'll be able to hang onto her anti-smartphone.
"I feel like it will get to the point where I don't have a choice," she said. "When I decided I didn't want the Internet, that narrowed it down to like three phones."
Swackhammer believes Johnson will have nothing to worry about. However, he thinks most people will make the switch to smartphones on their own in time.
"I certainly hope we continue to provide something for everybody's needs, and I believe that most providers will," he said. "I also think that the advances and the things you get by getting a smartphone will draw more people into it."