Are People Doing More Internet Tasks by Phone Than by Computer?

We’ve all heard that businesspeople, merchants, therapists, psychologists—really, anyone offering goods or services to customers, clients, or patients—are “Old School” if they’re still scheduling, billing, or performing a slew of other processes by hand. It may be time to start calling them something else—“Paleolithic School”?—because, more and more, you’re Old School for using even a desktop or a laptop.

“Dad,” my 13-year-old daughter said to me today, looking up from her homework, “is it true that people used to have to go into stores to rent movies?” Evidently, the homework was for history class. Aside from that sudden excitement that all dads of 13-year-old daughters will understand—cool! I get to tell a Boring Old Dad Story without her saying (smilingly, of course), “Dad, why do think I care?”—it got me thinking. Yeah—why did it take so long for modern man to evolve from having to leave his hearth and trek for the Blockbuster or Hollywood Video store…to the we’ll-mail-the-DVD-to-you-then-you-mail-it-back model…to finally where we are today, where I click a few buttons on my TV remote and am instantaneously—just like that, lickety-split—watching exactly what I want? Was it that it took so long to develop on-demand technology? Or was it truly that no one had yet had the idea?

But wait. Isn’t there something now where you don’t even have to click your remote? You can just say it—“XFINITY, dear, show Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”—and just like that, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story starts playing? Ah, yes: it’s called a voice command device (VCD). I think my in-laws have one. So in four decades, we’ve gone from watching 1977’s Star Wars using our VCRs to watching 2016’s Rogue One using our VCDs.

There’s another recent change in our use of technology—an even crazier one, if you ask me—that a lot of us may not have even noticed yet. It’s this: over the past decade, desktop and laptop computers have begun falling out of use, at least for a couple of huge demographics. While we’re still a long way from having to push aside the dusty Tom & Jerry salt and pepper shakers at the antique store to visit them, our desktops and laptops have begun being back-shelved in many households, while—you knew this was coming—our smartphones are taking their place. A recent study by comScore found that the frequency of people using desktops and laptops to access the Internet has been consistently plummeting—indeed, in January 2016, usage plunged by 7.6% compared to the same month a year earlier. The drop for December 2015 was even more dramatic, falling 9.5% compared to December of the previous year. Talk about breakneck. Meanwhile, the rate of people using smartphones for their Internet use has been skyrocketing. And this has been the trend for about a decade now, so that today, smartphones account for 65% of all our time on digital media—and 56% of that is time spent on apps.

And the craziest real-world stat of all?—one in five Millennials (roughly, 18 to 34-year-olds) don’t even bother owning a desktop or laptop. Imagine having a customer, client, or patient who literally can’t use your online scheduling, billing, or other feature…because you don’t have a mobile app for that.

What all of this means for people like us—anyone offering goods or services to customers, clients, or patients—is that one of the waves we need to be riding is mobile. Desktops and laptops—at least for many of the people we’re trying to reach—seem to be going the way of VCRs, Blockbuster, and Hollywood Video. Mobile scheduling, mobile billing—and a raft of other processes we’ve been doing by hand, desktop, or laptop—are what’s next.

Oh, I did get to tell my daughter all about renting DVDs at Blockbuster and other such rental stores. And she was interested! But when I tried going way, way back, and—in my excitement—started trying to explain what a VCR was, she looked at me, smirked good-naturedly, and said, “Dad, why do think I care?” Ugh. Thirteen-year-olds.