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No doubt, the last few decades have witnessed remarkable progress in technology. The telecommunications industry in particular has rapidly expanded. Over the years, the application of technology has increased economic activity in many countries. A vibrant telecommunications plays key role in business, trade and commerce. Mobile phones offer people convenience by saving time. Mobile phone has many features such as calls, short message service (SMS), multimedia message service (MMS), chat messengers which make it easy to disseminate information to an individual or group of people. In addition they can be used to report emergency situations. On the other hand, the use of mobile phones does not come without disadvantages. Driving while on the phone could be risky. Mobile phones are used to perpetrate crime and other tragic events in society. There are also claims that mobile phones may have some negative health implications. This essay will discuss positive and negative features of mobile phone, during that it will highlight some of its progression from the past until the present.
Mobile phones were first introduced into the UK in the mid-1980s. There was a small group who attracted by mobile phone whereas a significant number of subscribers. However, with the introduction of digital networks (The Global System of Mobile Communications, GSM) as well as the entry of additional service providers into the market in the 1990s, the number of subscribers  increased. The GSM technology as an operating system has over 340 networks in 137 countries, Stewart, W (2000). Since the late 1990s the use of SMS or text messaging has witnessed extraordinary growth. In Norway, for example, it is reported that approximately 280, 000 text messages are sent every hour in a country that has a population of only 4 million, Ling, R (2004). SMS is the preferred medium of communication among teens because it offers unique benefits: it is more cost effective than voice telephony; it does not require the immediate attention of the receiver. The major disadvantages are that it is relatively difficult to draft a message and the message length is limited to 160 characters. In addition to short messaging, multimedia message services (MMS) allows users to send and receive pictures, drawings, music and the likes. Now with the arrival of smart phones with internet facilities, the mobile phones industry has created a ‘mobile information society’ (The Economist, 1999).
It is apparent that the main advantage of mobile phones is their convenience. According to Ling, R (2004), mobile phones help to coordinate activities ‘on the fly’ and provide flexibility in the planning of the day’s tasks. It enables people to check and respond to mails as well as pay bills online wherever they are. Apart from making payments, many customers can now monitor and manage their bank accounts through their mobile phones. Even in shopping, they play a vital role; customers can place orders by dialling the shopping malls or receive information about special offers through their mobile devices. Those who like watching movies can dial to find out what is on the local cinema and reserve their tickets. In emergency situations, the use of a mobile phone may reduce the time it takes to alert emergency services of a motor accident, a fire incidence or other dangerous occurrences including crimes (Stewart, 2000). Thus mobile phones help in the safety and security of lives and property.
Furthermore, mobile phones facilitate work functions. In fact, mobile technology is said to be revolutionising the way people work as it saves time and gets work done even when workers are mobile. Many companies now operate a ‘virtual work place’ as an alternative to expensive physical structures and office facilities. This is very common with companies that have an ever-widening workforce. It can be argued that mobile phones work best for itinerant managers or business executives, consultants, and travelling salesmen as the core of their functions have to do with establishing key business relationships and partnerships. Thus mobile phones make relationship building easier. However, frontline workers often express their dissatisfaction with virtual communication, stressing that it hinders creative interaction and makes them feel isolated.
Mobile phones are not only useful to corporate sector workers, but also to blue collar workers. Plumbers, house builders, security workers, taxi drivers and other casual workers also make use of mobile phones in carrying out their day to day work activities.
In addition, mobile technology helps in social networking and keep people more closing than in the past for example, friends and families become more rely heavily on mobile devices to keep contact and arrange dates or appointments. Ling (2004) notes that mobile telephones have improved social interaction and access to peer group especially among teenagers in Scandinavia, Italy, Japan, Korea, and many other countries. But the use of mobile phones is often abused by teens. For example, recent reports indicate that some teens share nude photos and other offensive images among themselves. Others put themselves at risk by talking and driving with a hands-free ear piece. To students, mobile phones can act as instruments of sleep disturbances or annoyance, distraction, depression, and mood swings all of which can ‘impair concentration and academic performance’ (CRC health group, 2010).
Another disadvantage of the explosion of cell phones is that it supports ‘group behaviour rather than individualism’ (The Economist, 1999). It is from this behaviour that many people have connived to use cell phones to perpetrate crime such as sending scam mails, hacking into official business websites and emails, making fraud attempts, and a host of other tragic events. For example, the negative use of mobile technology was prominent in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in United States.
Mobile phones also pose adverse health effects to its users. Ki Park (2006) opines that the radiation emitted from a mobile phone itself can be harmful, especially if the device is not properly handled physically. A lot of attention is currently being paid to research on ‘…the possible health effects from the use of mobile phones, base stations and transmitters…’ in order to be able to advise the public and proffer recommendations for possible improvements. (Stewart, 2000)
Despite these numerous disadvantages, mobile telecommunications continue to offer huge economic benefits to many countries; they contribute to employment and tax revenues in UK. They also facilitate trade and commerce. For example, many businesses now send e-adverts to customers through their cell phones. These adverts usually come in the form of text or recorded voice messages, introducing a product or service – in anticipation of securing a bargain. Such adverts are mostly tailored to suit the customers’ demographic and geographic characteristics and can be monitored so that advertisers are able to know how many customers are responding. For over a decade now, mobile devices such as ‘telemetry’ have been used to monitor the performance of machines. Mobile phone companies are now making efforts to improve the way people manage their money by turning phones into electronic wallets and mini ATMs so that mobile phones will become a device that one cannot do without. Some smart cards now allow users to load their phone with electronic cash, make purchases from vending machines and parking meters through wireless receivers. Many banks now allow their customers to manage their bank accounts and trade shares over the airwaves. It is a whole new world of convenience!
The developments in mobile technology over the years have brought about ease of communication and convenience to many people in various segments of society: homes, schools, businesses, banks, shops, restaurants, work places, and the economy at large. The extraordinary range of services performed by wireless devices offers a great insight into the future of mobile phone technology. Although there are potential disadvantages posed by mobile devices including addiction, abuse, perpetration of social vices, and health hazards, the benefits of mobile technology far outweigh any costs that may arise from its use.
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