While flying to Las Vegas for CES 2010, I came across a great article in "The Economist" that described how culture affects cell phone use around the world. Not a groundbreaking concept, I know, but the article gave a fascinating look at just how differently cell phones are used across the planet.
Indeed, as the number of cell phone subscribers worldwide climbs above 4.6 billion, culture plays a role in everything from where callers use the phone to how they use voice mail. Even the very word that cultures use to describe the device says something. For example, "cellular" emphasizes the technology, "mobile" refers to mobility, and "handy" highlights the functionality.
For your perusal, I've emphasized the article's highlights here. Be sure to read the entire piece for a sense of context and more background on the individual studies.
- Germans (not me, though) on average spend only 89 minutes each monthly on voice calls, making them one of the quieter countries.
- In contrast, "American won't shut up" (ha!). The average monthly talk time for U.S. subscribers is 13 hours. On the other hand, Puerto Ricans are the chattiest of all. They use an average of 31.25 hours per month.
- Callers in Madrid and Paris proudly wield their cell phones on the street, while Londoners on the phone tend to gather in specific locations like the entrances to Underground stations.
- When making calls about intimate matters, Parisians don't mind if someone is in earshot, while callers in London tend to go to a private corner.
- The Spanish abhor voice mail and consider it rude to let a call go unanswered.
- The Japanese discourage cell phone use in public places, particularly on trains.
- Chinese subscribers are most likely to interrupt an existing call to take a new one.
- Americans expect less comprehensive coverage than their counterparts in Europe and are more likely to endure poor service without switching carriers.
- Subsidies can play a big role. In Belgium where carriers rarely subsidize phones, subscribers tend to have lower-end phones. On the other hand, Brits will carry more expensive handsets because carrier subsidies are more common. But down in Italy, carriers pay low subsidies, but subscribers still want flashy handsets even though they don't spend much time each month on voice calls.
- In India, where there's a large market for resold phones, customers are more likely to carry them in special pouches for protection. Phones in India are also more likely to have flashlights than in other countries.
- In warm climates where people do not wear jackets, phones tend to be smaller so they can fit in shirt pockets.
- In Europe, Greeks and Italians are the most concerned about cell phone radiation, while Germans and Swedes are the least concerned.