Computers, the internet and smartphones have changed our lives dramatically in just a couple of decades. Few would have predicted the impact that Bill Gates’ dream of “a computer on every desk and in every home” would have on our lives back in the early 1990s. We can now buy whatever we want, whenever we want it, and not even have to leave the house. It doesn’t matter whether we’re looking for groceries, a movie or clothing, we have everything at our fingertips. The revolution brought on by the smartphone, which was triggered by Apple’s iPhone launch in 2009, changed everything even further. The devices in our pockets have more processing power than the computers used by NASA to land Neil Armstrong on the moon. Here are some of the industries changed by this new power.
There are many ways that gaming has been changed by smartphones. The first games released for the iPhone and Android were very different from the video games that most people were used to playing on consoles and computers. Games like Angry Birds made use of the capacitive touchscreens built into the devices, providing a new playing experience that had not been seen before. These games were also funded differently; instead of paying a fee of around $50 up front, the games were given away for just $0.99 or even free. In-game adverts and “in-game purchases” were the new business models, offering free to play games that were more “casual”. Some of the leaders in this area were Angry Birds and Doodle Jump.
Unlike traditional games, where players would typically commit several hours of playing at any one time, these new smartphone games could be played for a couple of minutes, and then put down again. The effect of this on the industry as a whole was to see a drive for publishers looking to monetise their games in similar ways. Now, even major games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto have add-ons and expansion packs that can be purchased at an additional cost. Further to this, publishers like Ubisoft began offering clubs with challenges, leaderboards, and achievements to mirror the offering of the Apple Game Centre.
Another area of gaming that has been affected is iGaming. Online casinos began springing up in the mid-1990s, offering games like poker, slots and roulette. These online poker and casino services were then ported to mobile devices, offering the same games but with altered UIs and controls to take advantage of the touchscreens in these new smartphones. Very quickly after the launch of the iPhone, major iGaming companies like Pokerstars released apps for iOS and Android that offered mobile poker, roulette and slots.
Further developments occurred when iGaming brands began to adapt their offering to suit female players. These players were looking for a more casual experience that also provided social interaction. Day time TV adverts shown in the UK demonstrated this strategy, featuring brightly coloured branding, smiling people and live chat that went alongside the games. The mobile revolution for iGaming has turned it into a $50 billion industry.
The way that we have got around has been very similar for the last century. We walk, take the train, or drive a car powered by an internal combustion engine. While some changes are taking place, such as the development of electric and autonomous cars, the means remain predominantly the same. However, smartphones have made the way we use these modes of transport different.
Ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft have made it easier to get a taxi, book a car via a mobile app and then get out of the car without having to fumble for change to pay the driver. The demand has been huge, with the company bringing in $50 billion of turnover from rides in 2018. Smartphones have also meant we don’t need to buy expensive GPS devices for our cars, instead using Google or Apple Maps for free. We can even pay for the bus by tapping our phone thanks for contactless payment services like Android Pay.
The Dot Com Boom in the 1990s and early 2000s sparked a race for start up companies to develop new online stores where we could buy just about anything we desired. One of the most famous of these is Amazon, which started selling books, but quickly expanded into selling just about everything from dried cheese to car parts. Around 90% of all shoppers now buy from Amazon.
When smartphone use became widespread, ecommerce stores like Amazon began selling via apps. This became known as mobile commerce or m-commerce. This has become incredibly popular, with £25 billion being spent on smartphones in 2019, a figure on par with high street stores. While not all spending goes through smartphones, consumers are also using their mobile devices to conduct research before committing to buying. For example, according to Alex Franklin, the founder of a customized clothing company in the UK, his customers prefer to buy through their website, but he sees customers browsing their online catalogue and guides on useful topics like how to get printed t-shirts from mobile devices. He said, “our research shows that our customers, which are frequently large organisations, use their mobile devices in meetings when discussing product options and then make their purchases later from their computer.”
The rapid expansion of the internet started a revolution of the way we live our lives. Smartphones have been continuing this for the last 10 years. The way we travel, shop, and entertain ourselves have now all changed forever. Smartphones have not only provided new ways to do these things but have also left a lasting impression on the traditional industries as well.