In the palm of your hand

During the downtime before their field hockey practice, five girls’ hands tightly grip their mobile phones as they rapidly beat their thumbs onto the keypads. Kirstin Cook ’11 efficiently multitasks on her LG smartphone as she checks her e-mail, updates her Facebook account and sends text messages to her friends.

In poll of 118 upper school students, 33 percent claimed to own smartphone devices. These stylish and small mobile phones combine the function of a computer and PDA, a Personal Data Assistant.
Smartphones bundle all of the most important media applications for teenagers: web browsing, instant messaging, music, pictures, video and text messaging. According to Seattle-based research firm M:Metrics, the number of teenage cell phone subscribers has increased by almost 26 percent over the past two years.

“All of my friends use these smartphones,” Rosaline Paronyan ’09 said. “It’s definitely a big trend among students.”

Although there are few statistics focused on the growth of smartphones sales to teenagers across the Los Angeles area, the anecdotal evidence proves that this trend is growing.

A regional salesperson from Verizon Wireless has observed an increase in Blackberry sales amoung teenagers in the past few months.

An employee at a Starbucks on Ventura Boulevard witnesses many teenagers using their Sidekicks and other mobile devices while they wait in line.

And a salesperson at an Apple Store said there have been many teenagers who came in to buy iPhones since its release in June.

“My Sidekick is my all access pass to candy land,” Max Ritvo ’09 said. “It’s a conversation piece, conjures me up my sports scores, AIM gossip, and stock quotes.”

Even the smartphones that have been directed towards corporate and business users such as Research in Motion’s Blackberry and Palm’s Treo are extremely popular among students. In a poll of upper school students, 25 percent of the smartphone owners claimed to have a Treo or Blackberry.

“I use a Blackberry because P-Diddy always has one with him,” Alistair Belton ’09 said. “I think it makes me look like a business man.”

 “I don’t want to use a cell phone looking like a brick,” Dennis Cho ’09 said. “A phone should make you look good.”

This new generation of sleek multimedia phones does come at a steeper price. Some teenagers may have trouble convincing their parents to pay for high monthly fees ranging from $20 to $60. According to a survey taken by Jupiter research, 60 percent of teenagers are on their parents’ cell phone plans.
 “I do buy phones based upon how they look, but more importantly, I choose them based upon how rare they are to find in the U.S.,” Margaux Stanton ’09 said, who owns a limited edition Motorola smartphone from Hong Kong. “Rare and unique phones are more exciting to own because they stand out in the states.”

“Having a phone boosts my social life because I can easily stay in touch with all of my friends at all times,” Catie Yagher ’10 said.

Some of these teenagers’ hands seem like they are hermetically sealed to their mobile phones.
Interactive smartphones are infamous for distracting teenagers driving on the road. The Institute for Highway Safety recently revealed that drivers using cell phones are four times as likely to get into serious crashes.

“I used to try to text while driving,” Jake Goren ’08 said. “But I came close to an accident and now I try to wait until I am at a stop.”

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