Cell phones became an invention that would eventually change how we think about communication. Instead of being tied to a landline that required a direct connection or even operator control, Martin Cooper gave us the ability to carry a device with us that allowed for instant communication. He wanted everyone to have the chance to speak with someone without being tied to something.
Now we have smartphones that have more technology in them than the spacecraft that we sent to the moon 50 years ago. Cellular concepts have helped us to create significant improvements to communication and information access in almost every corner of the world. It took more than a decade for the first phones to reach the market, but now there are new models coming out every year from some manufacturers.
A majority of people in the developed world already own a cell phone, so the advantages and disadvantages of this technology are more for those looking into ownership for the first time or reviewing the history of this invention.
List of the Advantages of Cell Phones
1. Cell phones give you an option to call for help if you need it.
Before there were cell phones widely available, the only way that you could call for emergency services was from a direct landline or a car phone. That meant you would need to know where the nearest phone booth or emergency placement was in every neighborhood to ensure that you could contact the authorities when help was necessary. Now that most people own one, it is possible to call for help at any time if you have a signal available.
There are more than 5 billion people in the world today who own at least one cell phone, with many choosing to have 2+ in their possession for a variety of needs. 95% of the people in the United States own one as well. Every phone can dial the emergency line without the need to unlock the device as well. 40% of cell phone owners say that they have managed an emergency because of this technology.
2. These devices allow us to retrieve information quickly.
51% of adult cell phone owners say that they use their device to access information quickly when they need to know something right away. Over one-quarter of cell phone owners told Pew Research that they had experienced a situation in the past 30 days where they had trouble doing something because their phone was not available to them. With 77% of phones having “smart” capabilities, these devices are our cameras, alarm clocks, Internet access, watches, and device controllers all rolled into one package.
Because we have this level of information access available to us through cell phones, it allows all of us to be more productive because we’re spending less time trying to recall something or find the data through an alternative purpose.
3. Cell phones are a way to stop boredom.
Many of today’s cell phones have enough memory and storage available where mobile gaming becomes a possibility. 42% of owners say that they use their device to play games or perform activities because it helps them to cure boredom. One of the most common places where people use their phones is in the bathroom, where up to 75% of people say that they use it to check Facebook or other social media sites, play a game, or even read their email.
Let’s not forget about the fact that cell phones are still useful for their talk and text capabilities as well. You can call your best friend to chat or swap messages as a way to cure your boredom too. Even 30% of users say that they’ll answer the phone when using the bathroom.
4. You can find your way if you happen to get lost with a cell phone.
There are “emergencies” when you may not need law enforcement help, but you still need assistance to find your way. If you have a connection to a cellular tower, then you can use the apps on your device to manage whatever situation you’re facing at that moment. When you get lost, then a GPS tool can help you to get back to where you need to be. You can look up where the nearest gas station or restaurant is so that you can refuel.
There are Maps tools from Google and Apple that can help you to navigate when taking a road trip as well. These options can give you an estimated time of arrival, help you to calculate mileage, or even find a place for you to safely spend the night.
5. It is a highly portable and affordable device.
If you own an iPhone XR, then the idea of “affordable” might be relative, but there is no denying the portability of cellular technologies and the cost of an entry-level phone. You can purchase a simple cell phone with a few hundred minutes for less than $50 today – and that includes activation. Smartphones begin in the $100 range with brands like Motorola. Then you can take your new cell phone with you wherever you go so that it becomes an all-in-one device that you can use anywhere.
The cost of managing your device is minimal as well. If you want unlimited talk, text, and data, you can find a plan that can accommodate your needs with most providers for $25 to $50 in most situations. Compared to the days when you had to pay for long-distance minutes and the out-of-community connection fees, it’s a lot cheaper to own a cell phone than it is to maintain those traditional lines.
6. You receive better access to the Internet with cell phones today.
Many of today’s cell phones allow you to use your data connection as a personal hotspot. That means you can use the data from your plan to access the Internet on any device you own. If you hand out your password to someone that you trust, they can tether to your phone to get online as well. That means you receive better access since you’re no longer tied to a traditional Wi-Fi connection. You can work almost anywhere, which means there is more flexibility in how you schedule your hours or choose where to work – especially if you are a freelancer, telecommuter, or self-employed in some other way.
7. There are numerous learning opportunities available to us because of cell phones.
When students can learn from a single device that they own or for which they are responsible, then there are more opportunities to retain the information they see in school, at home, and in other learning situations. Some school districts have even started a policy which allows students to bring their own devices into the classroom to facilitate learning, helping to reduce the cost of issuing laptops or tablets to the students.
As with any technology, moderation is necessary to maximize the benefits which are possible. Some kids (and adults) can spend hours in front of their device every day, contributing to a more sedentary lifestyle. If you can balance cell phone use with other activities, this technology can be a powerful teacher.
8. It offers a way to teach responsibility concepts to the next generation.
Children who receive a cell phone between the ages of 8-11 can learn responsibility through practical concepts because they have a device to manage by themselves. Parents can take advantage of this technology to track where their students are through GPS. There are controls in place where you can restrict the access that a child has to the Internet, games of a certain age rating, and apps which you feel are in appropriate for them.
The caveat to this advantage is that the maturity of the child often dictates whether or not they are ready for a cell phone. Kids need to have the self-discipline to manage their time on their device with their other activities if they are going to have a successful experience with it.
9. You can develop exercise and activity plans with a cell phone.
Games are nice to have on a cell phone since they can serve as a momentary diversion, but you can also access a lot more content with this technology. You can use this device to find new recipes to try, keep track of the number of steps that you take each day, or look for informative videos that can teach them yoga, spiritual concepts, or how to fix a vehicle.
Cell phones give you the opportunity to develop and implement an activity plan that pushes you toward your fitness goals. The device will track your vital statistics so that you can see where you are making process, which then motivates most people toward a higher level of success.
10. It stores multiple information items for easy access.
The modern smartphone can store hundreds of pictures so that you can keep track of all of the family memories that happen throughout the year. If you have access to a cloud-storage program, you could take unlimited photos and videos with your device. Many smartphones can provide you with a calendar app or scheduler so that you always know where you need to be during the day.
You can dictate documents into a cell phone today, set an alarm to maintain productivity, and play music through streaming services or your favorite downloads. It is one of the best all-in-one tools that is available today to help us manage our lives, which is why so many people feel lost when they forget their device at home.
11. You can share information with others in real-time with a cell phone.
If you are having a great time on vacation (and have someone watching your home), then you can share pictures or video of what is happening while you are away in real time. Even if you are in Singapore and your friends are in Seattle, they will know the instant that your new content is available if they subscribe to your posts. Instant messaging is a possibility with these devices as well if regular texting functions aren’t suitable for your needs.
Some apps allow you to bump phones together to exchange personal information or add a contact without a direct input. That’s how easy it is to be part of the sharing experience today.
List of the Disadvantages of Cell Phones
1. Cell phones create a significant distraction for people.
There are almost 700,000 drivers who will pick up their cell phone while in their vehicle for some reason during any given day. Some are reading and responding to text messages that come through. Others are making phone calls without the use of hands-free technology. There are nearly 2 million accidents that occur in the United States because of distracted driving issues that involve cell phones.
Over 20% of accidents that involve a fatality and a teen driver include the influence of a cell phone as part of the incident. It isn’t just driving that is dangerous. Pedestrian accidents which involve cell phone use are rising as well, with people falling into fountains, venturing into traffic, or slamming into poles because they never look up from their screen. The National Safety Council has even added “distracted walking” as an injury category, with over 2,000 accidents happening per year.
2. New cell phones can be very expensive.
If you purchase an older cell phone or one with limited features, then you can find one for less than $100 in most locations. When you want to have access to the latest technology from the industry, then you are going to pay a price for that access. The latest iPhone models are priced above $1,000, so even payment plans with a data provider create three years of debt to manage for some consumers. Specialty cell phones can be priced above $10,000 in some situations as well.
As with any other technology, you can only experience the advantages of cell phones if you can afford to own one and manage your talk, text, and data expenses at the same time.
3. It exposes people to the problem of cyberbullying more often.
Before we had access to a cell phone, the only way that someone could become a cyberbully was to call you on your landline or send an unfriendly email. The technology we have today allows for instant updates, posts, and comments which can lead to this behavior. There are no longer any safe places if you keep your phone on 24/7. Even people you don’t know can decide to troll your social media accounts to create conflict.
Only 10% of kids with a cell phone say that they will talk to their parents if they experience cyberbullying at home, but 90% of teens have access to a personal cell phone. When we have so many different ways to communicate, then that increases the number of opportunities for one person to bully another.
4. Cell phone technologies can create addictive tendencies in people.
The average person in the United States spends over 180 minutes each day in front of their cell phone as a smartphone owner. That means you spend almost 40% more time on your cell phone if you hit that time target than you do finding something to eat each day. The average person will check their device over 80 times per day, sometimes even logging in without any notifications, just because the act of getting into the phone provides comfort.
People can become emotionally tied to their phones in such a way that they feel grief, anxiety, or despair if they forget it at home. About half of adults who own a smartphone say that there are times when they feel lost without the device in their possession.
5. There are issues of sexual abuse, exploitation, and child pornography with cell phones.
Sexting is one of the most significant issues that happens with the modern cell phone, especially for teens under the age of 18. When someone takes a nude picture of themselves to send to someone else, that can be a violation of the law. Only 11% of kids admit that they have sent an image of themselves to a stranger, but 4 out of 5 teens in this category say that they did so.
It’s not just directed at our kids either. 40% of teens say that they have received an explicit or aggressive message in this category that was meant for someone else. Over 10% of girls say that they receive pressure from someone that they know to send a message with an image of themselves.
6. Cell phone batteries can be dangerous.
Although the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is the most famous example of a malfunctioning battery in a device, there are several different health concerns to consider with this technology. If you use a phone for an extended time, then it can heat up enough to cause burns to sensitive skin. The heat generated by the battery can also cause flammable items to ignite in some situations.
There are also some concerns about the long-term exposure to electromagnetic radiation that can come from cell phones. Several students have shown that men who use a cell phone frequently have lower sperm count viability and mobility than those who do not. It may also increase the oxidative stress on some cells, which could eventually lead to DNA damage.
7. The use of cell phones creates higher levels of electronic waste.
The average cell phone user will replace their phone every 3 years. Some people will upgrade their device every 12 months. When we purchase a new item, the only one creates another impact on our e-waste streams around the world. Because many of the components in modern technology are toxic to the traditional landfill environment, we must use a specialized process to recover the metals and components in each older phone. Some communities do not have that kind of provider available to them.
Conclusion of the Advantages and Disadvantages of Cell Phones
Despite what critics or conspiracy theorists might say, there is no credible threat to your health from the mere use of this technology. Problems begin to arise when someone begins to use their cell phone irresponsibly. If you participate in distracted driving or walking, then your actions create a danger to yourself and others.
Kids can even take advantage of the benefits when they have supervision available to them which can teach personal management skills.
The advantages and disadvantages of cell phones show us that having more ways to communicate with others can be an excellent resource. We can call or text at almost any time, access the Internet, or take control of our life. It can support healthy relationships, but these devices can also create destruction. It is ultimately up to you to decide what impact the technology will have in your life.
Keith Miller has over 25 years experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entreprenuer, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.