Right after International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) invented the first device that combines cellular and mobile computing functions into one bulky, touchscreen phone in 1994. back then nobody knew smart phones would take the world by the storm. However, who knew that the "still developing India" would ultimately become the top consumer of data.
What do research and data say about India?
According to the annual reports of the Mobile Broadband India Traffic Index (Mbit) 2021, India ranks second in terms of broadband usage on mobile phones. The data traffic in India has also increased around 60 times in the last five years, which remains the highest in the world. In December 2015, 164 petabytes of data were consumed, whereas, in December 2020, this number reached to 10,000 petabytes.
It is, however, important to note that 55 per cent of data consumption is short content available on YouTube, social media and other OTT apps. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic that has grabbed the world by the throat, people began working from home, which caused an increase in the demand for fixed broadband in 2020. People turned to phones for online lectures, work and entertainment. As a result, these smartphones roped in masses for a longer period of time than ever before.
In December 2014, 690 thousand homes were connected with Fibre-to-the-home (FTTH). By December 2020, this grew to 4 million, which is five times more than that in 2014. Twenty-two million fixed broadband subscribers were noted in 2020, and the revenue of the same is expected to be 1.5 times by 2025. A 30 per cent increase was recorded for the time spent on educational apps, and OTT traffic increased by 265 per cent from February 2020 to April 2020, a mere 2 months.
This immense increase in data consumption caused by the pandemic is, of course, impressive for the service providers, but it also became the cause of severe health problems. Especially after the lockdown our addiction to internet and precisely our smartphones is at an all time high!
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The smartphone technology and controversies around it
Even though smartphones were made for people’s convenience, this technology quickly became addictive. As a result, it led to many controversies over the years. For example, airlines banned Samsung Galaxy Note7 from their flight because the phone’s battery carried a defect which led to the phone catching fire spontaneously. Later it was found that it wasn’t the battery, but the actual design.
Or let’s talk about the beloved “bendgate” controversy. Back when Apple launched iPhone6 plus, they promised a slim phone with increased screen size, what they didn’t realise that they had actually made the phone more bendable than the previous models in this series. iPhone received tons of complaints of their phones being bent by just sitting on them!
But, here we are, even after all this controversy, we as people of the 21st century have no intentions of giving up smartphones so easily.
How do smartphones impact people's lives?
Vivo India conducted a study to see how smartphones impacted the daily lives of people. Nipun Maurya, Director of Brand Strategy, Vivo India, said, “Overall, smartphones are a great tool but what it is leading to is a lot of addiction. For example, 84 per cent of people check their phones within the first 15 minutes of waking up, and 46 per cent of respondents said they pick up the phone at least five times in an hour-long conversation meeting with friends.”
The study further showed that 74 per cent of people said that they get moody and irritated when they stop using their mobile phone. About 70 per cent of people said that if their usage of smartphones at the current rate continues, they will have mental or physical problems.
Many tech companies like Google and Apple attempted to reducing the amount of time people spend on their phones. These companies started a “time well spent” movement to develop a technology that respects peoples time and does not feed off their vulnerabilities.
Smartphones – a risk to mental health
Smartphones have been accused of causing depression and suicide, diminished attention spans and decreased productivity. But, we always knew that technology is a double-edged sword. You do not get the good without the bad.
Online trolling, death and rape threats on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook is not new phenomenon either. Recently, a 12-year-old boy hanged himself wearing a mangalsutra(a gold necklace worn by Indian women after marriage) and bangles which were all a part of a TikTok challenge.
In another horrible incident, a mother of 2 committed suicide because her husband scolded her for using too much TikTok, and as a result, she made a video of her drinking poison and sent it to her husband. This is just one of the many cases where people committed suicide or accidentally killed themselves for the sake of content or a challenge. Honestly, what is this obsession with recording yourself?
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Numerous articles have been published instructing people detailing how to spend less time on their smartphones. It depends on the person to restrict themselves from spending too much time on their smartphones.
In a country like India, every other person has a smartphone, and companies are trying to only make money. It is difficult to accurately determine when this addiction will turn into a healthy use of the phone.
Also, due to the country still being in lockdown and many people still working from home, the scope of data traffic reducing is very slim. It may not necessarily be the worst thing to happen, but it certainly isn’t the best.