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Remember When Cellphones Were Used For Making Phone Calls?

by Sean P. Aune | May 16, 2010May 16, 2010 9:55 am PDT

Should we even bother calling them cell phones any more?  They do so much more than that now that it seems we barely ever make phone calls on them any more, and now there is research and data that backs this up.

According to The New York Times, the length of the average cell phone call has dropped in length from 2.27 minutes in 2008 to 1.81 minutes in 2009, and overall voice minute usage has stagnated.  Data has become the key component of cell phone usage, and this encompasses things such as e-mail, text messaging, streaming video & music and more.

iphone3gs539Dan Hesse, chief executive of Sprint Nextel, backed up all of this. “Originally, talking was the only cellphone application,” Mr. Hesse told The New York Times. He went on to say, “But now it’s less than half of the traffic on mobile networks.” He also added that he felt that within the next few years plans cell phones will be based on data consumption as opposed to voice minutes.

I have to say I agree with all of this thinking and data.  When I think over my own use of my HTC Hero, and BlackBerry Tour before that, the majority of my use is for texting, checking in to Foursquare & Gowalla, looking up locations on Google Maps, streaming Pandora, e-mailing and so on.  I can count the number of calls I make on my cell phone in a week on one hand.

The question is why aren’t people doing all of this data usage in conjunction with making and receiving phone calls?  Jefferson Adams, a 44-year-old freelance writer living in San Francisco, told the newspaper, “Even though in theory, it might take longer to send a text than pick up the phone, it seems less disruptive than a call.”  He went to add, “you can multitask between two or three conversations at once.”  And that pretty much sums up my reasons for texting.  Even my mother, who is of an undisclosed age, who had never used texting before recently, has fallen absolutely in love with it because she doesn’t feel she’s intruding when she sends a text message.

With all of the various phone operating systems adding more and more applications, data usage is just going to continue to grow, and when you consider that a lot of phones are adding VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) solutions such as Skype, all of those calls will count towards data usage as opposed to phone minutes.  Are we looking at a day where we might see a phone-sized device that gets sold by a carrier without phone capabilities and just data usage?  It isn’t that crazy when you consider the iPad 3G, now they just need to shrink it down.

What say you?  Are you using more data than you’re using phone minutes?  Do you think we will see a radical shift in how mobile carriers handle our devices?


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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