The way that we use our mobile phones has been evolving rapidly in recent years, with more people accessing the internet from a smartphone than ever before. The number of adults currently using a mobile phone has been steadily increasing, up to 97% in 2013- a 4% rise from the previous year. This makes mobile phones the most quickly adopted form of technology in human history, and the changes show no signs of slowing down.
The Rise of Apps
The trend that dominates the past five years is an overall leap in mobile phone usage in every aspect of our lives. In 2013 along, mobile app usage jumped by 115%. People are now using their phones more and more for web browsing, social networking, reading the news, checking on the weather, along with thousands of other functions. This increased functionality is due in part to the growing prevalence of apps on smartphones, which gives users easy access to specific information sources and useful tools.
Five years ago, many people were more likely to use their laptop or desktop computer’s web browser to search for information quickly. Now, apps create a shortcut to get what you need quickly.
The Social Network
Along with the growing use of apps came the rise of social networking on mobile phones. Facebook, Twitter and other social networking apps have increasingly dominated our phone screens- social networking and messaging app usage increased by 203% last year, with people of all age groups using their phones to communicate and keep up to date with their friends.
While a few years back mobile phone users would have been more likely to check their Facebook from their computer, today’s mobile users are more glued to their phones than ever before, and mobile social networking has overtaken the computer as the most common way to share a status update or tweet.
Visual Media and Photography
Although social networking was certainly a presence on our mobile phones five years ago, there’s been a major increase in visual media being used on mobile phones. Now, 32% of the social media we consume from our smartphones is made up of videos, and 63% is made up of images.
Mobile apps like Instagram have been a major driving force in the recent increase of visual media on our phones. Instagram works similarly to social networking sites like Twitter in that you follow friends (or strangers and celebrities) and comment or “like” what they post, but the posts are primarily images. Users can snap photographs wherever they go, add flattering filters and share them with their followers, adding hashtags to attract a wider field of viewers.
Instagram’s growth has been unprecedented- the app grew more rapidly than Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter combined, and now has over 200 million users. This means that more mobile phone users than ever are snapping and sharing images, and using visual media to express themselves.
Instagram’s popularity can be partially attributed to the progress made in smartphone camera technology over the last five years. Today’s smartphones have a far wider range of camera features, higher megapixels and a sharper, more professional resolution than ever before. Mobile phone users are now able to take and share high quality pictures wherever they go, making amateur photography a common hobby for smartphone users.
Heath and Fitness
2013 and 2014 have seen a massive boom in apps that are designed to improve the mobile phone user’s health, helping them to lose weight, get fitter and eat a healthier diet. A study by the analytics firm Flurry earlier this year showed that the health and fitness app category had grown by 62% in the first few months of 2014, compared to a 33% growth in apps in all categories. These types of apps have been on the rise for several years now, and the growth continues to expand each year.
Nutrition tracking websites have existed for some time, allowing users to log their food intake and exercise routines and offering advice and guidance on the best ways to shape up, but the industry has now moved firmly into the mobile phone sphere.
New technology that allows manufacturers like Apple and Samsung to incorporate pedometers and heart rate monitors into their software means that many new premium smartphones are offering health tracking software suites as part of the operating system. iOS 8, Apple’s newest operating system, will have its own health app built in, and Google is keeping up with the trend with its own Google Fit service for Android phones.
These software suites, alongside the extensive range of third party health apps available for users to purchase or install for free means that fitness tracking is finding its way onto the mobile phones of a huge range of users from a variety of backgrounds.