The term was coined a few years ago to describe a consumer who changes their daily behaviors based on their frequent usage of smartphones and the many mobile apps available on it.
With at least half of American adults owning a smartphone (a percentage that is growing every day), it seems undeniable that smartphones have changed the way people live. They are a ubiquitous part of everyday life, and affect not only our activities, but our emotions and priorities.
TIME Magazine reported 94% of all smartphone owners worry consistently about losing their phone, while 73% admit to feeling panicky when they believe their phone is lost. (For context, compare these emotions to the mere 6% of people who worry about security issues related to their smartphone’s access to financial accounts or other personal information.)
But what has changed even more is the way people go about common behaviors and activities as a result of smartphones. This technology has transformed banking, shopping, dating and, of course, driving.
Driving is one of the oddest realms for smartphones to have worked their revolutionary magic. After all, we all are abundantly aware that we are not supposed to be using them while we drive.
That awareness doesn’t stop mobile developers from flooding the market with apps that are meant to enhance various aspects of the driving process.
Apps like GasBuddy, Trapster, Waze and INRIX Traffic are apps that send alerts to your phone about speed traps, accidents, traffic jams, construction work, and red light cameras. As a result, you can navigate your route with the cunning of James Bond…or at least know that you’ll need to pay more attention to the speed limit.
However, a number of apps, such as LifeSaver and DriveMode, are designed to fight back against the dangerous trend of texting while driving. These apps put your phone on lock when the car speed is over 15mph. Along with silencing incoming texts and calls, it can send auto-mated messages back to the caller that you are behind the wheel and can’t answer.
For those with serious FOMO (fear of missing out), Vokul offers hands-free voice control for queuing music, dictating texts and emails, and even posting to Facebook and Twitter.
The negative effects of smartphone usage on drivers are all too familiar. But traditional methods of enforcing laws against texting while driving or other phone-related infractions have proved nearly useless. And simply offering the tragic statistics around smartphone usage while driving seems to do little to curb the problem.
Instead, developers have been working with law enforcement and insurance companies to come up with apps that offer positive incentives for responsible driving. For example, insurance companies in the US and Canada have launched apps that track driver behavior and reward good drivers with substantial savings.
Popular ride-share company Uber recently began monitoring abrupt movements in the accelerometer of drivers’ smartphones, in order to weed out the bad drivers in their workforce and maintain better safety for passengers.
But for those taking the truly long view, what smartphone apps are really doing is paving the way for the autonomous car. By conditioning ourselves to rely on computers for our safety, rather than our own judgment, we may be creating a future where the car is driving us.