Top Stories- Smartphones in 2021

A year of illumination and heat for the smartphone…

A picture of a phone, and the text on the phone says "2021 in review". This is a year-end wrapup for an advice column.

There are lots of lights during the holidays and an extra dose of illumination, i.e.  awareness, for smartphone users in 2021. Some of the darkest corners of the Internet and technology were exposed. We review some of Dear Smartphone’s top stories for smartphones in 2021.

The public became more aware of privacy issues in April, 2021 because of  a move by Apple. Technically, their no-tracking option was already in place, but iPhones 6S users and newer were advised to download iOS 14.0 as the default settings disabled IDFA tracking.  The IDFA, an Identifier for Advertisers, lifted the curtain and elevated awareness of how the Internet and email are paid for. Perhaps 2022 will bring a clamor for subscription email and more for-fee services. There is no free lunch on the Internet.

2021 also brought light and heat to concerns about teens, mental health, and their time spent on social media. This Fall,  the Wall St. Journal (WSJ) ran multi-part stories on the insidious nature of Facebook and Instagram algorithms. When you dig into the numbers, there’s more headline than data. Still, it’s promising that through  the efforts of the WSJ and the whistleblower, Frances Haugen, these issues have surfaced. As the year closes out, this light and heat spreads from Facebook to Tik-Tok and other social media platforms. 

RecorDS and StockS:

Not all 2021 illuminations were about social media. This year ushered in new expectations for the role of smartphones.  Storing vaccination records on the phone came to be seen as a social good by some, but for others, an overstepping of privacy and trust. Covid records stored to a smartphone might be as straightforward as a jpg image  or as enmeshed as a real-time data  link to public health and medical records. Meanwhile, there was a proliferation of new  pseudo-medical  apps to support fitness and well-being. 

A different mode of  health-Financial Health- was also in the spotlight this past year. Smartphones advanced prowess over Wall St. traditions for promoting markets. The power of the crowd, in this case, the ability to social network on the smartphone, ricochetted meme stocks like Reddit and GameStock from meteoric highs to valley floors.  Meanwhile, payments on Google Pay and Apple Wallet filled up, and will continue to buy, if not eat, the lunch of  paper money for everyday transactions. 

Eating it Up:

And on the subject of food, 2021 was the year that  phones and food went for the take-out. Previously, people used their phones, more often laptops, to order groceries.  But, with the continuation  of COVID and uncertainty towards restaurant dining, smartphone users turned to their phones to feast. So, an outcome has  been the rise of ghost kitchens (aka dark kitchens) where food is prepped for delivery without a  restaurant storefront. It’s hard to predict from a 2021 vantage what this impact will bring for local communities and local traffic.

Despite all these novelties taking place in 2021,  DearSmartphone would like to remind readers, especially those with young children, to continue to rely on traditional media and print journalism as their main window for news of the outside world.  Digital reading and news should not replace print because content on phones, shades of the IDFA, exists as a personalized filter bubble. Moreover, when families get most of their information on tablets or phones children are literally left behind. Parents forfeit the opportunity to help children filter the news and make sense of it. In these scary times, that need never been more important.

De-viced:

And finally, on a note of humility, DearSmartphone acknowledges she had a’ bad hair-bad tech day’ in December. While playing with new Siri and accessibility features on I0S 15.0, she inadvertently locked herself out of the device. It took a handful of technicians at the Apple store and a half hour of their collective time to unlock her phone. The experience was humbling- you can’t solve all your technology problems yourself.

Finally, DearSmartphone is happy to report that she begins the New Year with a larger family of devices. First, there is the ever happy, every smiling  bluetooth enabled Chatter Phone  and also,  a  great Android phone- with the sad  robotic  name,  ‘ REVVL V’.  Whatever it is called, this device is economical,  simple to use, has a long lasting battery,  and provides further connection to the needs of readers.

See you In January.

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