Listening to the news while driving home today there was a commercial for a cell phone service provider that was aimed directly at students about to return to school. I’m not a fan of commercials aimed at kids but I recognize that in a market economy, enhancing a sense of need helps create sales and that the student market is certainly a robust source of these sales.
Cell phone service, especially when it involves a smart phone, is irresistible to kids. These phones used to be in abundance when students entered high school. Now they are omni-present in middle school and making inroads into elementary school. The smart phone is also irresistible to me, and I’m using it in ways I never expected and the benefits are clear.
Going out to eat in Manhattan yesterday, I did my usual checking in Zagat’s and in OpenTable. I quickly decided on a midtown restaurant and made the reservation. But then I looked at my smart phone and specifically at a package called ABC Eats. This application provides you with the latest sanitary ratings of the restaurant, both the letter grade and the actual recent reports. Once I entered the restaurant name, the letter grade of “B” appeared and the actual reports quickly demonstrated why this wasn’t- at this time- an “A” restaurant. In the report there was mention of unsanitary bathroom conditions as well as the presence of filth flies. I immediately began searching for a replacement restaurant, which is easy to find in midtown Manhattan; the original restaurant is still on my list and as soon as the grade becomes an “A” and the comments become more routine, I will certainly go there.
My uses of the smart phone are broader than just food. Using it for email goes without saying; doing my banking using an app is another great advantage; finding weather reports is another plus; and so is the ability to download apps for almost any major city that provides handy advice on must see sights; plus hotel information, a photo album, a free video chat capability, my favorite music, a calculator, a flashlight, etc. The phone has it all.
But the phone also has an academic value that I am more and more appreciating. As an economist, I value the ability to access stock information with just a 10 minute delay; I also value the ability to directly access information on the American Economy that covers all the key statistics. During the 2012 presidential election, I looked daily and often more frequently at an app that provided all the key election polling results. I have apps for all the major newspapers and I appreciate the bulletins that are sent to me on a regular basis with the ability through the phone to access more details as soon as they are available. Thanks to my smart phone, I am clearly more up-to-date and savvy as both an economist and a citizen.
I’m still very much opposed to marketing to kids but I’m also very much an advocate for all a smart phone offers.