The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it.
Within a few weeks of the first confirmed case in December 2019, the entire world stood still and helpless. Governments across the world imposed lockdowns nationwide, mandated social distancing, and banned international travel. People were stuck within the confines of their homes, with no certainty of the future.
The majority of public resources were directed towards fighting the rage of the pandemic, and almost all other activities came to a standstill. The pandemic disrupted social, political, and economic growth throughout the world.
But do we, humans, ever bow down to anything?
No, we adapted.
We figured out innovative ways to continue living a life as close to normal as possible. Internet technology was harnessed and used for remote working and in almost every sphere of our life to achieve the same.
Education: Schools and colleges shifted to online education. Pre-recorded lectures, live classes, and sharing academic material through mails and Whatsapp became the new means of pedagogy.
Work: Physical office spaces were shut down; employees were provided with Internet connections and related infrastructure to work from home, and a culture of remote working was adopted on a massive scale.
Entertainment: Instead of going to theatres and playing sports, people shifted to OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime, played online games with their friends, and watched online stand-up comedy shows, among others.
Connecting with friends: Houseparty, Facebook, Zoom, were used to digitally connect with friends and keep in touch during tough times.
Shopping and buying essentials: Malls shut down, and buyers rarely visited retail stores. People took to online shopping. Even for daily or weekly groceries, mom-and-pop stores took orders through phones and made doorstep deliveries.
Mode of payments: Contactless deliveries and payment transactions saw a spike during the pandemic. Online modes like UPI, wallet payments, and netbanking were used to avoid touch during an exchange of hard currency.
The world saw a rapid digital transformation. Consumers moved towards online channels, and industries responded in turn.
Consequently, people started using smartphones more than ever before.
The rise of smartphones
Mobile phones had a very humble beginning.
Motorola was the first company to mass-produce the first handheld mobile phones in 1973, which we generally call the 0G or Zero Generation mobile phones.
Gradually, mobile phones could send messages, use ringtones, emojis, send and receive emails, etc. Eventually, we built 4G smartphones, which have become indispensable in the modern world.
Smartphones were already an integral part of our lives before the pandemic. There were 5643 million smartphone users worldwide in 2019.
However, the pandemic-induced digital transformation made smartphones a necessity. Now, people don't just use these devices for entertainment but education, work, connectivity, payments, and much more.
Let's have a look at some facts that offer an overview of the smartphone industry:
The number of smartphone users reached 6378 million in 2021, with the maximum number of users in China, India, and the USA.
According to Gartner, worldwide smartphone sales stood at 328.8 million in the second quarter of 2021, with an overall growth of 10.2%
This trend is expected to continue into 2022, when year-over-year growth will be 3.8%, with shipments totaling 1.43 billion.
In short, the smartphone industry will only go up and reach new heights from now on. There is no turning back with 5G technology just around the corner.
The new reality of mobile experience
Dependence on the Internet and smartphones during the pandemic increased manifold. Mobile phones acted as a window to the world outside. Numerous mobile applications were developed to make our lives easier. These included games, teleconsultations, fitness, e-commerce, food delivery, connectivity, etc.
Hence, began the new reality of mobile customer experience.
We began experiencing everything through our phones and continue to do so even after lockdowns have lifted. This signifies that we have adapted to this digital transformation and embraced the world of mobile customer experience for a long time to come.
Video conferencing apps attracted a lot of users during the lockdown. People used them for studying, office meetings, and connecting with loved ones. In fact, applications like Zoom, Google Classroom, and Microsoft Teams gained millions of users who will also use them in the future.
Telehealth usage spurred. Telehealth utilization has stabilized at levels 38X higher than before the pandemic. People now find it more convenient to consult doctors and specialists from home via mobile applications.
Online payment apps gained immense popularity. UPI (Unified Payment Interface), launched by NPCI (National Payments Corporation of India), experienced a significant boom.
Nearly one-third of the total amount transacted on this four-year-old platform came in the four months after lockdown (March-August 2020). UPI-based apps are safe and convenient as well. Therefore, people prefer paying through wallets or UPI rather than cash these days as well.
There is a lot more to smart mobile applications. 5G technology that promises reduced latency and increased speed and capacity will soon bring in a new era of customer mobile experience. 5G, along with the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), will become the new reality.
Mobile phones and the Internet allowed the world to adapt to the new normal quickly. It offered a digital alternative for everyday essential as well as non-essential activities.
Smartphones enable us to do numerous things from the comfort of our homes. With technology changing at a dramatic pace, customer experience will get even better in the field of mobile communication.