The numbers differ microscopically according to who’s doing the polling, but the verdict is quite consistent. Nearly 80 percent of Americans own (and presumably use) smartphones.
Of course The Outline, a digital media company that bills itself as “focused on power, culture and the future,” proclaimed earlier this year on its website that old-school flip phones are “this year’s hottest cultural trend.” It detailed how some people are seeking to make a socio-political protest statement — at least one described it as an effort to “keep a shred more of my sanity” — by ditching their smartphones, while others (actor Daniel Day-Lewis and famous person Kim Kardashian-West were singled out) just want to “look cool.”
A lot of what we do now is aimed at smartphone users because of the initial percentage we cited and the fact that we’re a for-profit operation.
Still, we’ve had the same interactions with folks who get so lost in those little screens that their minds aren’t in any solar system receiving frequencies from Earth. So it’s hard not to offer at least a tiny “hooray” to people who buck the trend (although those of you who have clung stubbornly to your taped-together units from the last decade will eventually have to replace them with 4G models as carriers phase out 3G service).
The reason we’re addressing smartphones is that what essentially is Super Bowl Sunday in that world occurred this week when Apple had its annual unveiling of new products, including three iPhones, at its headquarters in Cupertino, California. (Hold your fire, Android users, we know you’re there, but Apple’s good at this particular P.R. moment.)
The one that’s drawn the most attention is the iPhone XS Max, which has a whopping 6.5-inch display and sells for an equally whopping price ($1,099 for a 64GB model that won’t hold the average elementary school student’s photos; it jumps to $1,249 for 256GB and $1,499 for 512GB).
The XS Max is 3.05 inches wide, 6.2 inches tall, .30 of an inch deep and weighs just 7.34 ounces, so it’s not like those inclined to shell out that much cash will wind up toting around a tablet. (The screen goes from edge to edge.)
Apple also is reacting to the ubiquity of smartphones that we cited (a survey by ReportLinker found that 75 percent of Americans never switch theirs off) and the reality that they’re used for far more than making phone calls (it’s still the No. 1 activity, according to the ReportLinker survey, but at just 37 percent).
The original iPhone had only a 3.5-inch screen, not suitable for streaming “Stranger Things” or a “Mission Impossible” flick.
As for the price — the other new iPhones aren’t cheap either, especially compared to Android alternatives — it’s a question of the bottom line. Even though Apple’s offerings still top the smartphone sales list and overall iPhone sales actually increased by 3 percent in the first quarter of this year, the company and investors are worried that things are flattening. So Apple hopes enough people will be captivated by the siren’s lure of “newer and flashier” so it can make a big score.
However, analysts believe that lure isn’t as strong anymore, and people have taken to leaving well enough alone and not upgrading their phones as often.
Smartphone users certainly are ardent. Perhaps they’re becoming a bit more choosy and much wiser shoppers.