Rise of the Smartphone: The Decline of Single-Purpose Devices

Since smartphones, tablets, and wearables burst into existence over the past decade, they’ve created multibillion-dollar industries in part by rendering dozens or even hundreds of existing products and services virtually obsolete, from point and shoot cameras to newspapers and wallets. Most American adults now consider smartphones to be essential in their daily lives thanks, in large part, to millions of apps than can perform virtually limitless tasks. Apple’s now ubiquitous catchphrase “There’s an app for that” is just one reminder that mobile devices can do almost anything—and more services are being invented for mobile devices every day.

Dead consumer standalone devices and services

Think about the last time you purchased or used any of the following dead standalone devices. More importantly, think about whether you would ever purchase one again.

  • Landline phone
  • Radio, CD or MP3 player
  • Alarm clock
  • Portable game console
  • Point and shoot camera
  • Portable video player/DVD player/handheld TV
  • GPS device
  • Personal desktop assistant (PDA)
  • Calculator
  • Non-jewelry wristwatch

Many of us still own many of these devices for a number of reasons: a large CD collection that you haven’t digitized; an alarm clock that you’ve used for twenty years; an aging calculator from your days in college. But as we consider the future and how younger generations will make purchasing decisions, we can be sure that many of these devices will become mostly or completely obsolete. Remember the Laserdisc or 8-track player? Yeah, we won’t admit it either.

Mobile app developers and internet-of-things (IoT) engineers are hard at work digitizing everyday consumer products and services—things we depend on every day, but never imagined we could control with our mobile devices. For example, light bulbs and door locks can now be controlled remotely from mobile devices, suggesting that we may soon see the demise of our house keys and light switches. This example also illustrates how mobile ups the ante in new ways, offering more than the familiar on/off and lock/unlock paradigm: mobile GPS, for example, enables us to turn lights on and unlock the front door as soon as we pull into the driveway while connected clock apps can bright or dim lights based on the sunrise and sunset. Here are just a few consumer products that are making their way onto our mobile devices and promise to revolutionize the way we interact with the physical world:

  • Wallets (credit cards/ID cards)
  • Medical test and monitoring devices
  • House keys
  • Remote controls
  • Thermostat
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms

Consumer products are not alone in becoming displaced by mobile devices; dedicated devices in businesses and enterprises are also on the decline thanks to advances in cloud-based technologies that empower workers to use mobile devices in new ways while cutting overhead costs. Services like Skype, Dropbox or Box, Google for Business, Quickbooks, and Amazon S3 enable businesses to run virtually all services in the cloud—and on mobile devices. Here’s a short list of some of the business processes and enterprise products that are moving to mobile:

  • IT management
  • Order management
  • Bookkeeping/accounting
  • Cash registers
  • Storage and servers
  • Scanners/copiers/fax machines/printers
  • Contracts
  • Barcode scanners

Since the smartphone first emerged in 2009, Scandit has been helping businesses and enterprises around the world leverage mobile devices for enterprise-grade barcode scanning and data capture, enabling customers to capitalize on new mobile revenue streams or, in many cases, replace their dedicated barcode scanners and mobile computers. Similar to other consumer and business products and services that have shifted to the cloud and mobile, dedicated scanners are losing value thanks to the utility and cost-effectiveness of mobile devices that feature powerful built-in cameras. As mobile devices have evolved to enable enterprise-grade data capture and barcode scanning, businesses and enterprises around the world have chosen the Scandit platform as a cost-effective alternative solution to rising costs for dedicated devices.

Side-by-side TCO comparison: smartphones vs. dedicated scanners

The decline of any legacy technology begins when a new analogous technology comes along that is more efficient, or more cost-effective, or offers new features or functionalities. For many legacy technologies, mobile devices tackle all three. Just as consumers around the world are welcoming an increasingly mobile life, organizations are moving—albeit gradually—to cloud-enabled, mobile-friendly workflows.

A majority of adults say that mobile devices are the first thing they interact with in the morning and the last thing they interact with before they go to sleep, with dozens of interactions throughout the day, indicating a rapidly increasing reliance on them. Reliance on mobile devices points to a fundamental shift: when compared with buying and maintaining a number of separate dedicated devices as we have until very recently, mobile devices offer consumers and businesses incredible cost efficiency, unparalleled convenience, and a more robust feature set capable of expanding as devices evolve. Mobile devices open the door for virtually limitless uses and as society moves toward mobile device ubiquity, we can expect to see an increasing number of dedicated devices and services disappearing in favor of mobile-first solutions.


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