Just when we feel comfortable enough to say “wow, cell phones have really changed the way we operate,” things get even weirder. Here are 10 facts about cells from around the world that show the scale and style of our contemporary global use; sometimes for bad, but sometimes for real, cool, innovative good.
1. There Are LOTS of Them
There are half as many active cell phones on the planet as there are people. When you think of the general wealth distribution across the planet, it’s pretty remarkable to have over 3.3 billion active mobiles. Then again, Luxembourg’s mobile phone penetration rate is 158%. Yep - that’s 158 active cell phones for every 100 people.
2. And They Make a Mess
125+ million phones are discarded every year. Given the rate at which people go through cell phones (Koreans replace on average every 11 months), it’s easy to see how the environmental side can get out of control. At least there’s gold in the garbage! Yarr.
3. M-Voting in Estonia
While the 2008 US election is abuzz with web penetration, E-stonia’s been leading the global technopolitical charge. As Lithuania books a seat on the e-voting (online voting) train, Estonia’s letting mobile phones both act as a convenient vote delivery platform, but also a personal identity confirmation, ushering in a new era of what is being called “m-voting”.
4. Koreans Love to Text Message. Seriously.
Korean teenagers between 15 and 19 years of age send well over 20,000 text messages a year, on average (60.1 texts per day). I don’t care how fast StarCraft has made your fingers - that’s a lot of time that could have been spent… I dunno… talking to people. According to the Korea Times in February 2006, “over 30% of South Korean students send 100 text messages a day”.
5. The First Cell Phone Came Out in 1983
Well, at least, the first to get FCC acceptance. It was called the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X. Before you lolz at the cheesebag name, wait until you hear what it stands for: Dynamic Adaptive Total Area Coverage. Kinda endearing, I guess. They sound… proud.
6. Cell Phone… Or Flashlight?
Lost power? Sneaking back into bed? According to a Sprint survey, just under two-thirds of cell phone users use the backlight as a flashlight. A testament to human ingenuity! I guess it’s obvious, in a way. And here I thought I was being clever.
7. You Can Get Stuffed Into a Locker Through Your Phone
Ok, not really, but apparently text message bullying is on the rise in England. As an online anti-cyber-bullying guide explains, text message bullying allows for abuse around the clock. You want to pick on some kid, he’s available 24/7. It’s like those massive Blackberry ads at airports that boast that you now never have to leave the office. Bullying has never been more efficient!
8. Cell Phones Can Help Stop Nuclear Terrorism
Using solid-state radiation sensors, researchers at Purdue University are working to allow network of properly set up cell phones to track the presence of radioactive material. Since likely targets for terrorist attacks are major urban centers, and since most people have cell phones, this system could help collectively find out where the problem lies.
9. Used for National Disaster Response
Mobiles are more useful during an emergency than just for calling loved ones. Other countries have adopted systems whereby phone companies automatically warn citizens of emergencies/disasters - free of charge. Finland, in 2005, adopted such a system, as did Japan.
10. Half of Japan’s Top Fiction Was Written on Mobile Phones
Absolutely nuts. Turning the publishing industry on its head, this trend’s subscriber models are thriving and making significant money for aspiring writers, in turn fueling the phenomenon. Authors tend to be young women sharing fictionalized aspects of their lives. Five of the top ten works of fiction in 2007 were written on mobile phones. Japan, you never cease to amaze me.