Insight

Smartphones: The world as it has never been known

The birth of the smartphone has, no doubt, changed people’s ways of life. Aside from being a communication gadget, the smart phone has now become the most important device in human life, satisfying multiple needs and rendering several other gadgets obsolete. SAMSON AKINTARO, in this report, examines some businesses the smart phone has disrupted and some of the things it has replaced or is replacing

From about 450,000 fixed Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) lines in 2000, Nigeria today has over 200 million connected lines, out of which 141.4 million were actively connected to the internet as of April 2021, according to data from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). This shows the rapid growth in mobile telephony in Nigeria, but not just mobile but increasing smartphone usage as the internet connections suggest. The mobile phone has evolved over the years to become not just a communication gadget but a device capable of running and performing just anything and everything a user may wish. This capability has seen the smartphone disrupt many businesses and render many other devices obsolete. One of the worst-hit businesses in Nigeria by the smartphone apocalypse is the cybercafé business. Today, virtually everything internet-related can be done on the smartphone. The financial industry is also being seriously disrupted by the growth in the usage of smartphones, albeit positively.

The end of an era

Even with the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector and the arrival of mobile operators in early 2000, the cybercafé business was still a goldmine for many Nigerians. For many, the cafes were the only avenue to access the internet. But with the increase in smartphone penetration, many began to appreciate the importance of internet access on the go. As many people now access the internet from the comfort of their rooms, the need to visit a cybercafé has become irrelevant. Today, the cybercafé business, which was a vibrant venture in the early days of the internet in Nigeria, is now practically dead, thanks to the proliferation of smartphones. According to industry analysts, the stiff competition among the telecom operators leading to a crash in the price of data was the final nail on the coffin of the cybercafé business in Nigeria. “In the past, we used to visit the cybercafé and buy airtime of N100 for one hour. In those days, it may just be for you to check your email and send replies. But today, you can subscribe for a N100 daily plan on any network, which means you can have access to the internet for 24 hours just for the same amount that would buy you one hour at a cybercafé,” said Mr. Adewale Adeoye, a Computer Scientist. A businessman, Adekola Adegoke, used to own a cybercafé at Agege area of Lagos metropolis until July 2018. He said he was forced to close down the business when it was no longer yielding the desired profit.

“I was one of the early investors in the cybercafé business and I can tell you that it used to be very rewarding. But the case is different now and the profit has dropped. I had to close my own cyber café in 2018 when the cost of running the place became more than the profit I was making,” he said. For Femi Jaiyeoba, a café operator in the Ketu area of Lagos, he quit the business when he realised that many people now prefer using their smartphones to browse to visiting a cybercafé. “Although we enjoy a reasonable level of power supply in this area, many people prefer to browse on their smartphones. The only time people come to the café is when they want to scan a document or do a printout,’’ he said. John Eze, another café operator, said he was planning to close his shop for another business due to low patronage. He said that many of those who patronized cyber café had resorted to the use of smartphones rather than visit a café, adding that the new trend has stifled the business. “The golden days have passed. It is impossible to earn money easily as we did in the past. The few people who come to the café once in a while are the university candidates who want to print out their admission letters or scan documents. This is not too good for the business. The cybercafés are not as attractive to the users as they used to be since most of their functions have been replaced by mobile internet devices,” Eze said.

Payments go mobile

The increase in the use of smartphones has also disrupted the mobile industry in Nigeria, although unlike the cybercafé business. Financial institutions, however, realised the unavoidable disruption early enough to have come up with mobile applications. Today, mobile banking is the fastest-growing mode of payment in Nigeria out of several other channels. According to a report by the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement Systems (NIBSS), more and more bank customers in Nigeria now rely on their mobile phones for financial transactions. The report shows that bank customers in the country transferred a total of N3.05 trillion through mobile banking in 2020. This came as an all-time, representing a whopping 268 per cent increase over N828 billion mobile deals recorded in 2019. Between January and May this year, the NIBSS record also shows that Nigerians had transferred a total of N2.3 trillion over mobile devices. This represents a 170 per cent growth over N853 billion recorded in the same period last year. The NIBSS data also reveals that the volume of the mobile inter-scheme transactions also rose by 111 per cent from 41 million recorded between January and May last year to 86.7 million in the same period of 2021. With over N2 trillion already recorded in the first five months of this year, analysts said bank customers will be setting a new record of mobile transfers this year. More than other channels such as Point of Sales (PoS), Automatic Teller Machine (ATM), etc., mobile has become the most-used channel of electronic transactions. The use of smartphones for financial transactions has led to a steady decline in the use of cheques across the country, according to statistics from NIBSS.

Devices replaced

For many today, wristwatches are not the precious timepiece they used to be but mere fashion accessories as the mobile phone becomes the easiest time device. Interestingly, the same cannot be said of other devices that have become completely obsolete due to the advent of the smartphone. As technology becomes smaller, more efficient, and better with every release, the mobile phone as a single device is replacing many other items which were before now essential to human’s daily activities. From cameras to calendars, and many more in between, the mobile phone has replaced countless things in human life, some of which will be examined.

Voice recorders

Before now, the work tools of a journalist were incomplete without a voice recorder. But today, the smartphone has made that tool useless. Many practicing journalists now record with their phones and it can only be imagined how the makers of voice recorders are coping in today’s world. Except for those not willing to deviate from the old practice, voice recorders are no longer as useful as they used to be in journalism practice.

Camera

With smartphones, the days of carrying bulky cameras or camcorders are over. The latest smartphones of today are equipped with high pixels that even some professional cameras may not be able to match. The modern smartphone boasts a very capable camera lens, making any additional unit redundant. Except for professional photographers, having a camera has become needless for smartphone users.

Calculator

For students and business owners as well as traders, the need for a calculator may not be overemphasised. However, the mobile phone, not just the smartphone, has taken over that role. The smallest feature phone of today has a basic calculator, while the high-end smartphones come with calculators that have other smart functionalities. Aside from that, the best calculators can also be downloaded from the various app stores.

Torches

While most torches on a smart-phone may not be compared to a single-purpose flashlight, this functionality in mobile phones has rendered torches useless for many. Except for special purposes, the phone torch fits perfectly for most needs, hence, the demand for torches may no longer be as high as it used to be.

Alarm clocks

Bedside alarm clocks can be a little complicated. There are various buttons to contend with and multiple options to decipher. Smartphone alarm clocks are simple and can be configured in seconds to wake you up exactly when you want, and how you want with a generous range of melodies to choose from.

Calendar

The days of the traditional stick-to-the-wall or table calendar are gradually coming to an end. All smartphones feature a calendar that will far out measure any physical one in terms of its sophistication. While the traditional calendar offers limited space for date entries, more difficult to edit, and usually less accessible, the smartphone calendar has unlimited space for dates and appointments, and it is always with you wherever you go with your phone.

Devices being replaced

Why several devices have been phased out completely by the use of the smartphone, there are some that are still in use but being gradually replaced. In the nearest future, these devices may no longer be relevant.

Computers

The personal computer (PC)/ laptop has two primary functions: a platform for work and the web. While the former is somewhat less suitable for smartphones, but by no means impossible, the latter has become a core function of any smartphone. Whether it’s social networking, shopping, emailing, working, researching, or seeking entertainment, smartphones are more than capable of assuming the role of computers.

Scanners

Many smartphone applications now allow scanning of documents, thus many can now do without the bulky and costly scanning machines. Some defaults and third-party apps like Dropbox, Evernote, iPhone’s note app even have a built-in scanner integrated.

Books

The days of keeping a shelf of books are gradually coming to an end as many people now download and read books on their smartphones. Now you can have thousands of E-books just right on your smartphone. There are tons of E-books reader apps in Play Store and App Store you can download for all your readings.

Photo Albums

Several photo shoots done today remain in their electronic format. As a matter of fact, many photographers no longer do photo printing, they would rather take the shots, edit them and send them to the client’s smartphone. With Google Photos, people can store all their photos without worrying about storage limits as long as they do not mind Google compressing their photos. Google Photos, with the use of artificial intelligence (AI), will create albums, panoramas, animated Graphics Interchange Formats (GIFs), and stories, without the user doing anything.

Portable Video Players

With the advent of smartphones, the days when it was impossible to watch a video without a Portable Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) Player are gone. Portable Video Players have now become obsolete in many houses because smartphones have replaced them with online streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, etc. Again, videos in a smartphone can also be projected onto a large television (TV) screen through the ‘Smart View’ feature.

ATM/Credit cards

With mobile transfers becoming the most-used channel of payment, many bank customers no longer need to look for the nearest ATM or carry their ATM cards about before they can perform financial transactions. Whether it is an iPhone with Apple Pay, or an Android phone with Google Pay, all smartphones now have payment apps. Samsung also has its mobile payment system, Samsung Pay, with which users can quickly and effectively make payments. Aside from the above, the smartphone is replacing several other items and devices such as radio, pen and paper, and even remote control, among several others. As technology evolves with new technologies the smartphone may in the future become the only device needed at home and in the office, thus rendering every other gadget obsolete.

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