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Is the culture around handheld device use changing? Are we becoming lless of a prisoner of the smartphone than we were five or six years ago.

Sitting on the subway today during rush hour, maybe less than 10% of travelers are using their devices — even when in cell phone range. Of those using, half ar just listening to audio through a headset. This is a younger crowd too — a mix of students and young professionals. Five years ago, the percentage of active users would be close to 60–70% at any one time and playing Bejeweled, Angry Birds, or some other app with offline capability.

This is a completely unscientific analysis but if I were to come up with theories for why this number might have changed it would be:

  1. More apps are designed for always on Internet connectivity or are social and when there’s no Internet connectivity, they’re useless.
  2. App interaction is designed for more intermittent use than constant use. The feed can be burned through in a few seconds and there needs to be at least a few minutes for new interesting information to collect.
  3. We’re actually adjusting to better use of our technology and have gotten over the phase of micro-dopamine releases from checking our devices. Maybe being aware from the device is more freeing that having access to it?

Maybe we’re starting to cast off the spell that Steve Jobs had put on us to keep us mesmerized with our iPhones (or similar)?

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