Students and Smartphones

Smartphone sales have increased by 74 percent in the past year according to a report by Gartner. With the iPhone 5 reportedly coming out in mid-October from Apple and the “killer” Google Nexus Prime from Samsung and Google around Thanksgiving, this growth in smartphone sales shows no sign of slowing.

In fact, with Apple likely expanding its carriers to include Sprint and possibly even T-Mobile, some analysts are predicting a record sales quarter for Apple to finish out the year by selling 30 million iPhone 5 devices. But with a faltering economy, not only at home in the United States but worldwide, is a smartphone a smart buy, especially for a college student?

Until it broke a few months ago, I had the HTC Dream, the first commercially released phone to run the Android platform. Since it has stopped working, I have been using an old, ordinary phone. Email has to be checked on my computer, and if I want Facebook or Twitter on the go, I have to get updates through text. This has actually been a lot tougher than I would care to admit, and definitely harder than I thought it would be for a number of reasons.

On a fairly non-essential level, but an inconvenient and annoying one nonetheless, I cannot stay as connected with friends on social-media sites. Since there are so many smartphone users out there updating Facebook status’ and re-Tweeting throughout the day, it just isn’t really possible for me to keep up with all this activity by checking these sites only once — alright, maybe twice — a day. Even though this seems minor, and it really is, I have missed out on impromptu hangouts with friends which were announced through Facebook, or secret concerts by bands that retweeted about it only hours before the show.

On a more important level though, there have been incidents where professors have sent out emails with new assignments that they added at the last minute, like a message-board post or reading, and was due that evening. Getting home late from school and work and then not checking my email meant that I didn’t complete that assignment. The same happened at work, when my boss emailed me about covering a shift and I didn’t get the email until after shift. In this information age of smartphones and constant inter-connectivity it is becoming increasingly assumed that you are also constantly connected, and when you aren’t you lose out.

As a journalism student — I’m sorry, literary journalism student — I find this expectation of connectivity to be even stronger. In the recent “Arab Spring” rebellions occurring throughout the Middle East, a majority of the news and information, by both international news organizations as well as civilians experiencing the situations first-hand, was disseminated through social networking sites. Anyone hoping to cover the story — and everyone was — had to be constantly connected, most likely by way of a smartphone. With so many people saying that journalism is dying, chaining, etc. I feel even more that I actually need a smartphone.

Even students in non-journalism or related majors should have smartphones now too. With social networking and companies like Apple and Google becoming more prevalent in the marketplace, new jobs related to these areas are popping up. And with the unemployment rate currently at 9.1 percent nationally and 12 percent here in California, students would be wise to do anything that they can to increase their chances of employment, even if it is something as simple as buying a smartphone and knowing how to use it.

Personally, I am waiting for the iPhone 5, and it would seem like everyone else is too. As I’m writing, an article pops up on my RSS feed, which states that, according to a recent poll 31 percent of cell phone users are likely to buy the phone, up from 25 percent who said they would get the iPhone 4. So as the fall quarter begins, and new and returning students are getting their back-to-school gear, smartphones will likely be on the list, and iPhones and Android phones will be an ever-increasing sight on UCI’s campus and every other college campus, probably in the world. Don’t think of these smartphones as frivolous purchases that only the cool kids can make, but rather as an investment in your future. At least, that’s what you should tell your parents when you ask them to buy you one.

Joel Marshall is a third-year literary journalism major. He can be reached at