When EXACTLY did everyone start staring at their cell phones?

Hey all,
So I have a specific question, and I think there actually is a specific answer… but I don’t remember what it is, and I’m not sure how to find out. Basically…

When EXACTLY did everyone start staring at their cell phones in public places? It’s not a question of when the first time was that anybody had a smartphone, or when the very first groups of people in the most hipstery places did it, but when did we reach a critical mass where it became the norm to see most average people in any given city looking at their smartphone in line at Starbucks, walking down the street, waiting for something, etc etc etc?

This isn’t some kind of judgment call either way on that activity… :rolleyes: But I think there WAS a specific, narrow stretch of time when this became the norm, and I can’t remember when it was. It’s a long story as to why I need to know, but I’m hoping to find the specific year, season, months, etc… when it became a completely common sight to see most people in cities looking at a phone. All ideas appreciated!

I’m pretty sure this will vary from place to place and also due to people’s perceptions. This is better suited to IMHO than GQ.

General Questions Moderator

March 22, 2003.

EDIT: 10:42am.

Wrong. You’re thinking of Jerome, Lisa and Tony.

Everyone started staring at their cell phones on July 7, 2005 at 4:45pm EDT.

All joking aside, the first iPhone was released in 2007, and Android in 2008, and I don’t think that the behaviour you note predates touchscreens and apps.

So… some time between then, and when everybody started complaining about it on Facebook. (Which predates smartphones by the way … but I had to check!)

My son got the first Iphone I ever saw 2007, immediately after that we noticed people everywhere had them. My daughters had them by 2008. They were talking about apps and games and Facebook all the time. The youngest was probably staring at hers sooner. She had DS for a couple years before and an IPod touch, so looking down at a screen was normal to her. I still don’t do it, if I am up and moving about I find it cumbersome to have it in my hand. I would say it started 2008 and really escalated from there.

Yeah, it wouldn’t be pre-iPhone, so 2003 and 2005 are way off. Back then, people used to complain about everyone TALKING on their phones in public. (Imagine that!)

The first iPhone (2007) was pretty much an early-adopter thing. I think smartphones achieved “critical mass” in about 2009. I got my first iPhone in summer 2011 and I’m usually a couple of years behind the herd.

To back that up with some actual data, here’s an article from August 2009 with a chart using estimated data to show that smartphone sales would beat PC sales by 2011.

By September 2012, Business Insider reckoned that “the era of explosive smartphone growth was over”. CHART OF THE DAY: Smartphone Additions

From the graph, it looks like the big jump in sales occurred in late 2010 and through 2011. So maybe 2011 would be a more realistic year when “everybody had a smartphone”. (Hey, maybe I’m not so behind as I thought!)

Right. I was going to say “2010” — nice round number, and happens to be true. Exact date? Based on the previous post, looks like late in that year. So, let’s go with… November 5, 2010. Which means the first news item we Americans were reading on our smart phones was about the midterm elections … Republicans regaining power in Congress, midway through Obama’s first term.

In any given location, probably when G3 became available:

Wow, this makes me smile because I’d forgotten about that!! And now that I remember, I feel very grateful that talking on your phone in public is no longer some widespread thing. What I am even more grateful for is that texting is now a quieter affair. I remember how texting used to be done with your number keys (you know, 7 P, 7777 is s, etc.), and the phone would make a beeping noise every time you pressed a key. That drove me nuts!!! I always set my keypad to silent, but it seemed like no one else was courteous enough (or bothered enough) to silence their keypads when they texted. And I hated the music back then, too. Man, 2017 is just so much better than 2007!

Sadly the FBI does not release street mugging rates correlated with rates of oblivious cellphone staring, stratified by city.

It’s got to make life easier for muggers.

To hell with the muggers. How about people walking into various walls, fountains, and even a bear! (2:10)

My boss gave me a cell phone on 2 September 1998.

A few days later at work he asked my why I had not been answering it.

I gave it back to him.

Nope. Staring at cellphones predated iPhones by several years. The killer service (not “app”) was SMS, introduced in most cellphone plans around 2000. By 2005, usage was quite high.

The reasons are numerous. It was cheaper than conversation and could be used in a low-key manner during meetings, at meals, and in other social situations. It required one to view the display and the method of creating one (pushing keys multiple times or holding the keys down to select a character) forced a person to pay close attention to the phone for a sustained period of time.

Games, media, and other modern apps may require longer periods of staring at the phone, but SMS was the one that kicked it off.

Starting at your Blackberry was a meme back when Blackberry was the cat’s meow.

Ha! I know I shouldn’t laugh at peoples’ misfortunes but dumb asses that can’t be bothered to pay attention to the world around them deserve elbows. And bears.

Yup, cell phones can be a distraction, but you don’t need a cell phone to walk into a bear. I ran into one – bounced off it’s face – when I had been watching my foot placement when running across a beaver dam (the sticks are pointed and poke up at random directions). We were both startled, and I stood up and backed my way from whence I had come, with the bear moving forward toward me. When I reached shore at a trail T intersection, I backed further up one branch of the trail, while the bear stayed at the trail intersection and eventually went the other way. I’m damn lucky that it didn’t defend itself when I ran into it.

I think smartphones went from being a novelty to commonplace between 2007 and 2010. In 2010 if you bought a Cellphone it was almost certainly a smartphone unless you specifically chose otherwise so I would say around 2011 was the point where it was ubiquitous.

At the risk of repeating myself, I’ll just point out that smartphones have nothing to do with the phenomenon of people “staring” at their phones. Being visually engaged with your cellphone dates back at least to SMS becoming widely available. It’s just my opinion, but I’m right.