Is the mobile phone taking over?

The mobile phone is fast becoming the centre of the digital world. In a very short space of time it has evolved from a device for making voice calls and sending sms messages to a pocket sized handset that provides access to just about any form of content. It also remains the biggest selling consumer electronics device in history, a position which is not about to change. And as this device continues evolving, other personal handheld devices run the risk of becoming redundant as applications are merged into one device. Already devices such as personal navigation devices are decreasing in popularity. This is the view of Brett Loubser, product manager at Samsung Mobile SA.

“The reason why mobile phones are so popular is because they are inherently personal,” says Loubser. “Consumers use their mobile phones for just about anything nowadays – they are music devices, a watch, a camera, provide navigation and now even serve as eBook readers.”

“If you look at where mobile phone technology is going, with enhanced touch screen technology, high definition video and complete social media integration, there is no doubt that we are going to see an even bigger surge in mobile phone users,” says Loubser. “It has been said that mobile phones already outnumber human beings almost 2 to 1 in some market regions, which shows where this evolution is heading.”

The concept of the smartphone has also exploded in the past 18 months. “This has a massive impact on networks as they now have to deal with ‘always on’ devices, constantly updating and using capacity,” says Loubser. “Projections show that this is going to increase even further and that globally we will be using 40 times more data in 10 years’ time.”

Loubser foresees that new technologies will have to be implemented to allow for all of this content to be brought to the mobile phone. “While I don’t believe other technologies will become redundant, mobile phones will continue to evolve and perform more functions in our daily lives,” he says. “As South Africa enters a new era in communications, most smartphones will start incorporating functionality such as Wi-Fi to allow for some of the data requirements to be moved off the existing cellular networks,” Loubser adds.

With the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup around the corner, the question is raised whether our current operators will cope with an increase in traffic. “These operators have been planning for this event for years and I believe they are ready,” says Loubser. “The US has been cited as an example of how networks can be

compromised as a result of hugely increased data capacity demands, but I believe operators there were caught unaware and just were not ready when the amount of data consumed skyrocketed.” He says that in South Africa, mobile has led the broadband charge and that fixed-line is now starting to catch up. “Studies show that most people in emerging markets will access the internet for the first time through their mobile phones,” says Loubser. “This makes even more sense if you take geographical considerations and the cost of rolling out a fixed line network into account,” he concludes.

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Is the mobile phone taking over?