For some people, cell phones are a wonderful convenience of modern life; for others, they are irritating contraptions that should be banned from public areas. A mobile phone or cell phone is an electronic telecommunication device with the same basic capability as a conventional fixed-line telephone, but which is also entirely portable and is not required to be connected with a wire to the telephone network. Most current mobile phones connect instead to the network using a wireless radio wave transmission technology. The mobile phone communicates via a cellular network of base stations, also known as cell sites, which are in turn linked to the conventional telephone networks. In addition to the standard voice function of a telephone, a mobile phone can support many additional services such as SMS for text messaging, packet switching for access to the Internet, and MMS for sending and receiving photos and videos. In less than twenty years, mobile phones have gone from being rare and expensive pieces of equipment used by businesses to an all pervasive low-cost personal item. In many countries, mobile phones now outnumber land-line telephones, with most adults and many children now owning mobile phones. It is not uncommon for young adults to simply own a mobile phone instead of a land-line for their residence. In some developing countries, where there is little existing fixed-line infrastructure, the mobile phone has become widespread.
With high levels of mobile telephone penetration, a mobile culture has evolved, where the phone becomes a key social tool, and people rely on their mobile phone address book to keep in touch with their friends. Many people keep in touch using SMS, and a whole culture of “texting” has developed from this. The commercial market in SMSs is growing. Many phones even offer Instant Messenger services to increase the simplicity and ease of texting on phones.
The mobile phone itself has also become a totemic and fashion object, with users decorating, customizing, and adding different accessories to their mobile phones to reflect their personality. This has emerged as a separate industry. People have made mobile phones into status symbols instead of necessity, especially young boys and girls. It is a matter of great prestige when they carry the latest model every fortnight to college. This has given rise to an increase in criminal and unethical activities so that they can get extra money to satisfy this growing need to snob.
Mobile phone etiquette has become an important issue with mobiles ringing at funerals, weddings, movies and plays. Users often speak at increased volume, with little regard for other people nearby. It has become common practice for places like bookshops, libraries, movie theatres, and places of worship to post signs prohibiting the use of mobile phones, sometimes even installing jamming equipments to prevent them. Many air companies, particularly those providing long distance services, offer a “quiet car” where phone use is prohibited, due to concerns of possible interference with aircraft radio communications. As with many new technologies, concerns have arisen about the effects on health from using a mobile telephone. There is a small amount of scientific evidence for an increase of certain types of rare tumours (cancer) in long-time, to persistent heavy users. More recently, a study provided significant evidence of genetic damage under certain conditions. Some researchers also report the mobile phone industry has interfered with further research on health risks.
Another controversial but more lethal concern is the correlation with road traffic accidents. Several studies have shown that motorists have a much higher risk of collisions and losing control of the vehicles while talking on the mobile telephone simultaneously while driving, even when using ‘hands-free’ systems. One can see every second person on the road with a crooked and half-tilted neck either driving a car or riding a motorcycle. Mobiles have been major distraction on roads and are proving to be as harmful as driving under the influence of alcohol. Accidents involving a driver being distracted by talking on a mobile phone have begun to be prosecuted as negligence similar to driving while intoxicated. In some countries, such as Ireland, Japan, Singapore, Brazil, Australia, Austria and United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland and Prance, as well as several states in the United States, driving while using a mobile phone is illegal, though an exception is often made if the phone is equipped with a hands-free system. Yet, even with a hand-free system, it is alleged that the conversation on a mobile distracts more than a chat with a person sitting besides the driver.
Despite all the abuses of cell phones, one cannot deny the uses of mobiles. They are one’s easily available help in case of an emergency. They save a lot of time and energy in making multiple calls to track a single person. Thus they increase direct one-on-one relationship. They also keep loved and near ones well connected. The SMS is also a convenient way to keep in touch with your loved ones when no one has the time for writing long drawn letters which take days to even reach. Mobiles are also a great source of entertainment. You can listen to songs, play games, get live cricket scores, market-updates and even the headlines. No matter where one goes, cell phones are the only hope of keeping families connected without any hassle. They are convenient, easily accessible and of great use. All one has to remember is that mobiles were invented for our convenience and not to create nuisance. If used judiciously, wisely and with public etiquette, mobiles can be of great use. Technology is here and it is here to stay. It is indeed upto us to let it guide our lives or to allow our sense of reason to control the right use of technology.