Liza Colburn uses her cellphone constantly. She taps out her grocery lists, records voice memos, listens to music at the gym, tracks her caloric intake and posts frequent updates to her Twitter and Facebook accounts.
The one thing she doesn’t use her cellphone for? Making calls.
“I probably only talk to someone verbally on it once a week,” said Colburn, a 40-year-old marketing consultant in Canton. She has an Apple iPhone.
For many Americans, cellphones have become irreplaceable tools to manage their lives and stay connected to the outside world. But increasingly, that does not mean talking on them much.
Although almost 90 per cent of households in the US have a cellphone, the growth in voice minutes has stagnated, according to government and industry data.
This is true even though more households each year are disconnecting their landlines in favour of cellphones.
Instead of talking on their cellphones, people are making use of all the extras that iPhones, BlackBerrys and other smartphones were also designed to do — browse the Web, listen to music, watch television, play games and send e-mail and text messages.
The number of text messages sent per user increased by nearly 50 per cent nationwide last year, according to the industry association. For the first time in the US, the amount of data on mobile devices surpassed the amount of voice data in 2009.
“Originally, talking was the only cellphone application,” said Dan Hesse, chief executive of Sprint Nextel. “But now it’s less than half of the traffic on mobile networks.”
Of course, talking isn’t disappearing entirely. “Anytime something is sensitive or is something I don’t want to be forwarded, I pick up the phone rather than put it into a tweet or a text,” said Kristen Kulinowski, a 41-year-old chemistry teacher. And calling is cheaper than ever because of fierce competition among networks.
Colburn said texting had also become an easier way to stay in touch with her daughter. “The other night she texted me from upstairs to ask a vocabulary question,” she said with a laugh. “But I drew the line there. I went upstairs to answer it.”