The Fall of Kin and the Rise of Everything Else

You may have heard the news, quiet though it was, that Microsoft’s foray into the world of “social media phones” has bitten the dust – prices were cut dramatically after only a little over a month on the market.  It’s hard to say how much of this was the fault of Verizon’s steep data plan price (with no other major data plan features than combined feeds from social networking sites), and how much of this was the fact that people aren’t willing to pay for social networking on a phone.  The marketing was great, but it’s maybe the other stuff, like apps, that sell phones.

For other smartphones, with more features, and other portable devices, the picture is a lot rosier.  Pew Internet and American Life Project’s report of the Mobile Internet came out recently and as you can imagine, the graph goes up, up and up.  Close to 60% of adults access the internet wirelessly with either a laptop or phone (as opposed to 41% last year).  More of them are using mobile devices to do more things – take pictures (76%, up from 66%),  send/receive text messages (72% vs. 65%), access the internet (38% vs. 25%) and play music (31% vs. 33%) among other things. The numbers for people between 18 and 29 years old, do not require an explanation at all – they use their phones for every kind of service they can get.  Interesting factoid: African-Americans and English-speaking Latinos continue to be among the most active users of the mobile web. Cell phone ownership is higher among African-Americans and Latinos than among whites (87% vs. 80%) and minority cell phone owners take advantage of a much greater range of their phones’ features compared with white mobile phone users. Why this is interesting: for people who cannot afford a computer, the cell phone is a substitute for web access.  Many years ago, when I was in library school, we were concerned with the distinction between the digital haves (those who could afford a computer) and have-nots; libraries, of course represented a savior for the have-nots.  But now they can take that access with them, without having to go to the library (what that means for libraries is another question altogether).

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