The Cellphone: Positive Impacts on Our Society

By Andy Walton

The cellphone is one of the defining technologies of the early 21st century, with a December 2012 Pew Internet study showing that more than 87 percent of American adults own at least one. While the negative societal consequences of cellphones have been well documented, it's also true that they can bring many benefits. Mobile technology allows users to interact with family, friends and colleagues in ways that weren't possible for previous generations.

Mobile Commerce

Cellphones have become vital tools for consumers, allowing users to obtain information, search for discounts and purchase products directly from their devices. M-commerce is growing rapidly, with an eMarketer study putting U.S. retail sales through mobile devices at $24.66 billion in 2012. In addition, mobile marketing through cellphones allows businesses to engage with their audiences in new ways. This can be especially effective for small businesses, giving them a cost-effective way to reach potential customers.

Helps Speech Difficulties

The text and instant messaging functions of cell phones can be used to help those who suffer from vocal communication problems. Some conditions, such as certain forms of autism or diseases of the vocal cords, leave individuals able to understand words but unable to vocalize them. Cellphones offer a portable and unobtrusive way to type what they want to say instead of having to say it aloud, with some phones also offering text-to-speech capabilities.

Keeping in Touch

Cellphones make it easier than ever before to contact family and friends, especially for users who do a lot of traveling. No less than 65 percent of American adults believe that their cellphone makes it a lot easier to stay in touch with the people they care about, according to Pew Internet's 2012 survey. Cellphone-based services like SMS and instant messaging encourage communication between individuals through their convenience alone, allowing users to stay in more or less constant contact.

Emergency Use

Keeping a cellphone on you allows you to make 911 calls immediately, with no need to waste time finding a phone to call from. The Federal Communications Commission estimates that 70 percent of 911 calls are made from mobile devices, and recognizes them as an important public safety tool. It has also developed a text-to-911 function, allowing users to request emergency assistance through text in certain circumstances. Even in non-emergencies, for example a car breakdown, cellphones can make requesting help much easier and safer.