Motorola changed history when they became the first company to produce a handheld mobile phone in 1973. The first cell phone call was completed on April 3 of that year, when Martin Cooper, a Motorola employee, contacted Joel Engel, a competitor at Bell Labs, with the new device.
Since then, we have seen a dramatic evolution of the cell phone. The first phones were huge, bulky, and priced out of reach for the average consumer. They were a basic phone that could create a mobile call and nothing more. Since then, our phones have turned into massive computers. We call. We text. We stream Netflix with them.
The modern cell phone allows us to stay in-touch with the fast pace of our world. We connect socially, we play games, and some people even build careers through the data connections a phone provides.
Here are the major advantages and disadvantages of cell phones from a modern perspective.
List of the Advantages of Cell Phones
1. The modern phone is an extremely versatile tool.
Modern cell phones are more than just a phone. They are cameras. They are GPS devices. They are entertainment consoles. They can hold documents. They help us send emails. Millions of apps allow people to fully customize their phone to meet their needs as well. If you want to track your steps each day, your phone can do that. If you need a timer for baking a cake, your phone can do that. It keeps track of time, connects you to social networks… and it’s still a phone too.
2. It can be used as an effective learning tool.
A cell phone can help children reinforce the lessons learned at school or begin the learning process in the comfort and safety of home. Educational apps, such as ABC Mouse, can take children through an entire grade’s worth of educational material in a way that is fun and interactive. Children who can take advantage of this key point can be several steps ahead of where they are expected to be in school when it comes time for a formalized learning process.
3. Cell phones teach us about responsibility.
Children can learn responsibility with a cell phone because they are required to keep track of it. They may be given data limits that prevent them from accessing games or the internet once that limit is reached. It is an opportunity to learn how to communicate effectively with others while disciplining oneself to set it down and ignore it when the time comes. Adults can also learn responsibility with a cell phone in many of the same areas.
4. They provide a lifeline when there is an emergency.
Before the average person owned a cell phone, having an accident on a rural road with injuries was potentially deadly. Someone would have to locate a home with a phone so that the proper authorities could be called. With modern cell phone access, a phone call can be placed from the scene of an accident, allowing for a quicker response. Automated text responses in case of an emergency can be sent out to cell phones as well, like if a tornado warning has been issued for a specific area. This technology has transformed how we save lives and how many lives can be saved.
5. It offers another layer of safety.
A cell phone can double as a flashlight in the dark, allowing people to find their way. Some phones even have a flashlight function built into them. Phones can be set to trigger an audio alarm if trouble is near. In a worst-case scenario, one can even use their cell phone as a weapon to protect themselves. Whether the phone is basic or a top-of-the-line model, the added safety it provides lowers stress levels while allowing people to focus on whatever task they may need to complete.
6. Cell phones provide needed information.
Cell phones can be tracked. Apps today make it possible for parents to know exactly where their children happen to be. If a phone is lost, tracking allows for it to be located again, even if the phone was stolen. Law enforcement officials can use cell phone tracking to secure suspects and potentially prevent criminal activities from happening. This needed information not only enhances family safety, it also enhances the safety of society in general.
7. It provides affordable communication for families.
The average cost of a basic landline phone service, which includes unlimited local calls, but no long-distance calls, is between $15-$30 per month, depending on what features are wanted. That might include call forwarding, call waiting, or caller ID. Landlines are useful for DSL connections or emergency services with direct location information. Cell phone plans are even cheaper. Tello, for example, offers a plan with 200 domestic minutes, emergency service access, and 200 MB of full-speed data for just $9 per month.
8. Cell phones simplify the logistics of calling.
Before cell phones were routine, calls were made from landlines that had varying levels of cost. Some providers offered free local calls. In the U.S. Midwest, it was not unusual to pay a $0.05 connection fee for all local calls of any length. Long-distance calls were billed at per-minute rates. International calls were the same. Even different types of calls could generate different charges. Most cell phones have simplified this issue so that consumers no longer need to track how many calls or what type of calls were made to estimate how much their monthly bill is supposed to be.
9. It makes it easier to access the internet.
Most smartphones today have data capabilities. When activated, the process of accessing the internet is as simple as starting an internet browser on the phone. People are no longer stuck on a DSL, a dial-up, or some other form of a land-based ISP to connect to the rest of the world. With 4G speeds, real-time data connections make it possible to do almost anything online that someone could do at home with a more traditional computer.
10. Cell phones are extremely portable.
Cell phones are so portable today that they are often used as a replacement for landlines. In 2017, the U.S. Health Department released survey findings that said 50.8% of U.S.-based households are completely wireless when it comes to phone service. Only 6.5% of homes use a landline only for their phone needs and 3.2% of homes do not have a cell phone or a landline whatsoever. In 2007, only 15% of homes in the U.S. were completely wireless. The portability of this technology is only improving, which means people can take them anywhere and be able to communicate or consume data if necessary.
11. It allows for effective scheduling coordination.
Let’s take a look at the profile of a U.S. family with four children who are all in elementary school. There are two boys and two girls. The boys are in Boy Scouts and the girls in Girl Scouts. There are after-school activities every Wednesday. There is soccer practice on Saturday. Baseball and softball practice are Mondays and Thursdays. Games are on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Cell phones make it possible for the parents to coordinate their schedules to manage these events while being able to contact coaches, leaders, teachers, or coordinators about schedule changes that may affect attendance.
List of the Disadvantages of Cell Phones
1. Cell phones can create a technology addiction.
The average person checks their smartphone about 100 times per day. They check their phones even if there haven’t been any notifications given. If boredom sets in, the natural solution is to check the phone, even if there is nothing to do on it. Not having a phone can create personal anxiety for some people as well. It can be so problematic, in fact, that some people may prefer to isolate and communicate through their phones instead of talking to people in-person.
2. It can be used to exploit others.
Children are especially vulnerable to the exploitive acts of others over smartphones and similar technologies. Social and messaging apps allow people to pretend to be anyone online. They can convince others to meet with them or send them suggestive photographs. Over 40% of teens have either sent or posted sexually suggestive content using their cell phones. For girls, nearly half of them do it as a joke. Those pictures can be shared with others, even though the image may be considered illegal pornography, and only 8 states have enacted legislation to protect children from this process.
3. Bullying is more frequent with cell phones.
Cyberbullying is much more destructive than the traditional forms of bullying that previous generations encountered. With traditional bullying, you were generally safe once you made it home. With cyberbullying, you can be contacted by a bully at any time, no matter where you happen to be. As long as the phone is turned on, there is an opportunity for a bully to harass you in some way. With data access, bullies can even post disparaging comments for the entire world to see without a person’s knowledge. About 1 in 4 students admit to being cyberbullied at least once.
4. It eliminates chances for privacy.
The convenience of cell phones can be extremely helpful. It can even save lives. It also means that people never really get a chance to spend time by themselves any more. When there is a cell phone around, there is an opportunity for someone to talk to you. Features such as a Do Not Disturb make it possible to shut down notifications, but there is no denying the fact that less alone time leads to higher levels of stress and anxiety.
5. Cell phones create distractions that limit productivity.
Multitasking is something that most people do not perform well. Just 2% of the human population is believed to be a “super-tasker.” That means they can go from new task to new task without losing any productivity. For the rest of the population, transitioning between tasks can lose up to 15 minutes of productivity each time it happens. Looking at a cell phone is a switch of tasks, which creates the potential of lost productivity. Checking a phone just 4 times at work could result in a 1-hour reduction of productive work time.
6. They create waste.
About 5% of the waste products that are dumped into landfills or similar facilities today are outdated electronic items. The most common item in this category is an old cell phone. About 70% of old cell phones could be reused, but fewer than 1 in 5 of them are actually recycled. Modern smartphones contain numerous toxic materials, such as hexavalent chromium, that can build up in the environment and even in the human body. That doesn’t even include the lithium-ion batteries that are used to power most modern phones. E-waste is increasing at a rate of 8% per year, but regular waste increases at just 1.2% per year.
7. Three words: texting and driving.
Over 650,000 drivers use their cell phone while driving, even though laws against using them are increasing throughout the world. Over 300,000 injuries on highways are attributed directly to the use of a cell phone while driving. In the United States, 25% of all accidents now are because of texting and driving at the same time. Drivers who are texting are 6 times more likely to be in an accident than a drunk driver. Cell phones have created these problems. 11 teens die, on average, every day because they text and drive.
8. Cell phones are still not cheap.
When Motorola received final approval of the first commercially-viable cell phone 10 years after mobile phones were invented, the retail cost of the phone was $3,995. That was in 1983. Using a standard inflation calculator, that is the equivalent of $9,942 in 2018 monetary value. The prices of top cell phones have come down since then, but they are still not “cheap.” The iPhone X retails for $999. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 retails for $950. Even with carrier subsidies, people need to earn a certain income level to afford the best phones that are on the market.
9. It increases opportunities for cheating.
Children can take their cell phones to school and use it to access information that is required for a test. Adults can take their cell phones to college courses to do the same thing. Basic searches make it easy to find required information in a very short time period. They can even be used for stealing IP from businesses and other nefarious purposes. Cell phones create numerous temptations for people that can be difficult for them to resist, which can lead to trouble for them that wouldn’t be present if the cell phone wasn’t around.
10. Good kids can turn into bullies with a cell phone.
The anonymous nature of a cell phone makes it possible to post almost anything online without personal responsibility. Hateful comments might be “trolling” for a cheap laugh, but those words can be very hurtful. Kids that would never bully someone in person can find that online bullying is much easier to do and pursue it, even if they don’t recognize their actions as bullying.
The major advantages and disadvantages of cell phones show us that technology can make our lives easier. It can also make our lives more difficult if that is the direction we choose. We must emphasize discipline with this technology to maximize the benefits it is able to provide. Then we must encourage one another to maintain that discipline to ensure the potentially negative aspects of this technology can be minimized.