How mobile has changed the world

By Warren Tomlin

In the last nine years, the world has undergone a massive shift as a result of the smartphone invasion. While mobile devices had been around for a while, the release of the first iPhone in 2007 was the beginning of a surge in smart device use, and Android devices were not far behind. Since then, smartphones have become central to the daily lives of most people, in some predictable as well as some surprising ways.

According to Pew Research, 68 percent of Americans now use smartphones, and in the 18 to 29 age group, the number jumps to 86 percent. The invasion of the smartphone has been a bigger technological shift than even the Internet. In 2016, most of us are essentially carrying around a supercomputer in our pockets, and a16z says smartphones are the first universal tech product.

So, what does life look like since smartphones?

Mobile has changed everything…

Mobile has affected numerous areas of life and business. The we we work, play and live have all been shaped by the power and pace of mobile. A study reported by Forbes indicates that 91 percent of smartphone users keep their phones within arm’s reach—which means they have a role in just about everything we do!

The way we work

A slew of mobile communication and productivity tools are now at employees’ fingertips thanks to the prevalence of smartphones. Whether companies implement BYOD policies or provide corporate-owned devices to workers, traditional business-to-business platforms have been mobilized. Mobile email, chat, meetings and applications such as CRM or inventory management systems are available for employees through the company app store, and they’re making it easier for workers to do their jobs anytime, anywhere.

The way we play

Mobile has also become central to consumers’ entertainment and gaming. According to, American smartphone users spent on average 44 minutes a day in entertainment apps and 33 minutes a day in gaming apps in 2015. That’s more than an hour a day just playing on our phones! Smartphones have made it possible to have almost any conceivable game at your fingertips, whether you prefer “Words with Friends” or a first-person shooter.

Travel apps, whether for booking, trip planning, navigation or simply researching a landmark while on the go, can be vital to surviving as a tourist in an unknown area. In fact, it’s hard to imagine how people ever traveled without them.

Smartphones have also facilitated unforeseen performance benefits for amateur athletes, who can now use wearable devices and apps to meet running or bicycling goals or improve their tennis or golf swings. In all of these areas and more, smartphones have become fundamental to many users’ play time.

The way we live

Finally, mobile has changed how we live in countless ways. Smartphones have replaced a slew of household and personal devices, including alarm clocks, watches, maps, cameras, flashlights, music players and many more. Smartphone apps can also provide services such as finding a restaurant or cab, scheduling appointments and so on. They have certainly transformed the way consumers interact with brands.

What does this mobile shift mean for businesses?

The massive influx of smart devices has no doubt changed the world. They’ve made us more productive and collaborative at work. They’ve broadened our opportunities for play and recreation. And they’ve helped make menial, everyday tasks easier.

The cultural transformation brought about by mobile has required big changes for businesses — both to mobilize their employees and engage consumers who are living in the fast-paced digital world. Many organizations are facing an existential crisis and being forced to make their model relevant in a world where everybody’s a mobile “expert.” Those who fail to adapt to this mobile shift will become irrelevant.

I’m curious to know what device you’re reading this post on today: a notebook, a tablet, a smartphone?

Mobile has undeniably changed the world — and changed business — and there’s no turning back (unless back means back to your smartphone).

Written By

Warren Tomlin

Partner at EY

Warren has more than 20 years of experience in strategy, innovation, product development and online marketing. Recognized as one of Marketing magazine’s 100 Thought Leaders, Warren is an authority on mobile, driving the cross-brand mobile strategy.

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