OK, so it wasn’t exactly a time travel experience, but compared to daily life in New Zealand, my recent two-week trip to California felt like a ‘back to the future’ experience, minus the DeLorean.
We’ve all read the statistics in both articles and through insights from Google that mobile usage is escalating at a rapid pace. We know it, talk about it, write blogs about it, and at Tomahawk we build only responsive websites or mobile-specific sites. But to actually witness and experience first-hand the explosion of mobile use in just one year in California is nothing short of astonishing.
Never far from hand, the “young ‘uns” were snapping photos, poring over emails, Facebook and review sites – even my 76-year-old parents were using their phones for directions, visiting review sites for electronics while they were standing in a store, and forcing their mobile screen in my face to prove I was wrong – because Wikipedia had the right answer all along.
Internet is – for the most part – widely available, free, and wireless wherever we went, so like it or not, we were always connected.
So how did mobile phones guide four Kiwis and six Americans of various ages (from 11 – 76 years old) in the two weeks that we spent trekking across California?
So the mobile phone is supposed to be…wait for it…a phone, right? We made minimal use of our phones’ calling capability in our two-week expedition.
Texting and emailing was rampant, as everyone kept in touch with other family and friends, and I stayed in contact with the business via email on my phone.
“Show me the way”
Besides taking photographs, one of the top uses for our phones was for directions. That sounds obvious, but our decisions were definitely influenced by businesses that offered embedded Google Maps on a mobile-friendly website.
If our chosen attraction, restaurant or store didn’t have a mobile-enabled site with a map location –“the Americans” quickly found another place that did.
One of the Kiwis wanted to buy a special drum that can’t be found in NZ. He did research prior to leaving NZ and found the perfect store to purchase the very expensive drum. When we were out shopping and ready to go to the drum store, we found that the chosen store’s website was not mobile enabled and didn’t have a map so a quick search on our phone found an equally good store and they got the big sale because they had the drum, a mobile site and a map.
The same scenario was repeated several times throughout our trip.
Where to eat, what to do, where to shop
It is common practice in California to pull out your phone to find a restaurant, an activity or even a festival. It is almost as if – dare I say it – no one needs to think anymore. All you need to do is Google the chosen activity, or visit the habitually-used site.
For restaurants we commonly used Yelp, there are also regional destination sites (which offer locals rates via login) and Trip Advisor is used endlessly and is bigger than Texas (had to throw in an American cliché).
There were a few destination publications available in our accommodations and at various outlets and the “elders” in our group took the time to read them. A place called “Feed the Big Boys” caught my sister’s eye in a publication, but alas, they didn’t have a mobile-enabled website and didn’t offer a map. Needless to say, they lost our potential business.
Apps make life easier
Apps are now central to daily life for most Californians. There appears to be an app for whatever the average human wants in life, from following your favourite sports team, discovering local landmarks, to banking and providing travel information.
Whether standing in line for coffee, attending a social function, everyone seems to be comparing and sharing the latest apps that have changed their life, it is like a source of status whether you have the latest and greatest.
One app that we used that definitely made our life easier was the Disney App. This was actually one app that you didn’t share and tell others while standing in line!
The Disney App advises you the wait time for each of the rides so you could plan your fun to maximise ride time and minimise line wait. This app definitely served us well!
Three final factoids to wrap up the Californian report:
- Instagram is a must
- Using your mobile phone as a credit card swipe is common place
- Google Glass – saw a few people walking around sporting a pair like it was totally normal
Suffice it to say, I was amazed by the sheer pace of technological advancements and mobile dependency in just a year!
I can’t wait to go back next year, maybe I’ll finally see one of those hover cars I first heard about in the 80s.