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Smartphones take over cellphone usage

Nearly two-thirds of adults now have a smart-phone.
Nearly two-thirds of adults now have a smart-phone. (HANDOUT)

Apple's newest phone, the iPhone 6s will be released Friday, marking the latest evolution in the cellphone market.

It's been 18 years since Ericsson released its GS 88 model, the first time the term "smartphone" was used to market a cellphone. Since then, changes in cellphone technology and — more importantly people's relationships with their phones — have made drastic strides.

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In 2011, during the run of the iPhone 4s, Pew Research began studying the prevalence of smartphone adoption. Then, only 35 percent of adults owned a smartphone. In just four years, that number has nearly doubled as 64 percent have now taken the smartphone plunge. Of American society as a whole, 90 percent own a cellphone of some type.

Gender Drowsky, of Mount Airy, got his first flip phone years ago to use with his business, Gender's Woodcare. He soon switched to an Android phone to be able to send email on the go. Last year, his sons convinced him to get his first iPhone.

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"My sons are both young adults. They had been insisting that it was a more user-friendly interface, and I could do more with it," Drowsky said. "I like it a lot. It's easy to use to keep in contact with people."

Drowsky said he primarily uses his phone for email and loves the Google Maps app.

Matt Blanton, of the AT&T store in the TownMall of Westminster, said the majority of folks coming in are looking for a smartphone. Blanton said the store only stocks a single flip phone, and it's rare for someone to purchase one, suggesting many of the flip phone users are holdouts from previous generations of phone ownership.

The smartphone — with Apple products getting steadily larger with nearly each release, from 3.5 inches to 5.5 inches — has already begun replacing the home computer as society's primary way of accessing the Internet. For 10 percent of smartphone owners, their phone is the only access point for Internet services, according to Pew Research.

In rural areas like Carroll County, reliable broadband Internet service can be hard to come by. Mark Ripper, chief information officer for the county's Office of Technology Services, told The Times in March nearly 17,000 Carroll residents don't have a reliable way to connect to the Internet. In cases like these, the smartphone's data usage provides an easy — albeit a potentially expensive way — of staying connected.

Blanton said the three most important factors for buying a smartphone are the quality of camera, fast Internet and ease of texting. That none of the three major features of a smartphone have anything to do with the device's use as a telephone suggests a major change in what we think of as a "phone," with the object becoming more of a pocket computer than pure portable telephone.

"Data's important to everyone who has a smartphone," Blanton said. "Not too many people really need huge data plans. We'll get people who get the unlimited plan and think they use a ton, but it turns out they hardly use it."

Kelly Frager, of Mount Airy, owns Etiquette for Everyday, a company that offers etiquette training, including lessons and courses on changing modes of technological etiquette.

"I think with the tech advances of the past decade — not only having your phone be a telephone, but also having your emails there and social media applications and everything on these phones — there's changes in how people are interacting," Frager said.

"On the good side, we are connected to other people. On the bad side, we're connected to more people regularly. Some develop a dependency on that type of connection."

Zack Woff, 28, of Hampstead, said he got his first phone when he was 16. Today, he uses it primarily to keep in touch with his daughter. He said he's not very interested in upgrades and enjoys his current iPhone 5s.

Frager said because of changing technology, thoughts on cellphone usage have changed as well.

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"In the workforce now, we've got four generations working side-by-side. We have millennials who have spent most of their adult life, from their teens, who only know a world where they're connected to their phone," Frager said. "Other people are well into their 50s and spent a great part of their life with a phone with a cord connected and a rotary dial."

Frager said the most important thing is establishing preferred forms of communication. She said some use text messages as second nature, while older employees may prefer a phone call. As long as everyone is open and honest with what works best for them, Frager said, communication troubles can be smoothed over.

"We have to realize and understand technology is here for us and to help manage our lives," Frager said. "It should not be managing or controlling our life, and we often forget that."

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Twitter.com/Jacob_deNobel

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