Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members


Advent of smartphones literally placed the world at your palms and gradually transformed lifestyles. Smartphones made everything convenient and for most users they became an extension of their body. However, in a pandemic-ridden world, smartphones transformed from a “nice to have” to a “must have” device in more than one way.

In March 2020, as soon as national leaders across the world comprehended the danger and scale of the Covid-19 pandemic, nationwide lockdowns were announced. People had to do everything from home, be it working, shopping, consulting doctors, continue with school education or interact socially. Apart from doing office work, almost everything else was done through the smartphone.

Globally, a lot of organizations did not have the required funds or infrastructure to transition to remote working smoothly. But employees with access to smartphones could participate in office meetings via video calls and contributed to business continuity until a better setup was put in place. Indeed, many businesses would be at a lot worse position today, if smartphones didn’t come to their rescue.

As soon as people understood the gravity of the crisis, anxiety and fear invaded their mental space. Social interaction with friends and family via video chats and social media helped in keeping people calm and collected. According to NICCS article, during the lockdown period, texting increased by 37%, while video calling increased by 32%. Facebook reported 70% weekly rise in group calls.

An internet usage analysis conducted by New York Times confirmed that increase in popular demand for social interaction, increased the use of social media sites and other video calling options like Google Duo. Other apps for workplace connectivity, like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom also experienced a surge as people shifted to managing work conveniently through smartphones.

Usage of smartphones increased multifold in the aftermath of the pandemic. Week after week people’s screen time increased and “weekly screen time reports took over the internet”, reported a Washington Post article. A doctor from Houston, Texas shared that his screen time had increased by 185% in a week through a tweet, and he definitely was not alone.

In addition, smartphone usage also increased for online shopping, online gaming and streaming content. Smartphones kept people connected, enabled them to take care of their responsibilities, kept them entertained and occupied, and also aided businesses to operate smoothly. But smartphones also helped in keeping people safe from the pandemic.

After the lifting of lockdowns, as businesses re-opened and people stepped out in the “new normal” contactless payments enabled by smartphones helped people to shop safely while maintaining social distancing norms. In US, contactless payments increased by 150% compared to March 2019, found a Forbes study.

In a bid to further curb the spread of the virus, mobile manufacturers launched functions that could help implementation of contact tracing apps. Android and iOS rolled out newer versions to enable Apple and Google contact tracing initiative, that doesn’t need an app to notify people about potential Covid-19 exposure.

Looking back at all that has been accessed and done through the smartphones, it won’t be an overstatement to say that smartphones helped people to survive the lockdown and continue to aid people live in a semblance of normalcy despite the continued threat of the pandemic. However, one must also acknowledge that now that consumers have formed new habits around the smartphone, it will be the gateway of many new trends that would take over the world in the “next normal”.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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