There was a time when you actually had to be at home or at your desk to receive a telephone call. Today, almost everybody carries a communications device around with them, and mobile phones have become such a cheap and effective method for ringing up others that they have eclipsed static landlines. The beauty of the mobile phone is that not only can these devices allow us to talk to anyone we like, whenever we like, but in this age of smartphones, they can do so much more than just allow you to chat.
For instance, one of the new BlackBerry 10 phones is not just for making calls – it also gives you the ability to text, email, browse, organise and write – it’s a whole tiny office in the palm of your hand. That same device can entertain you as well – you can read books on your smartphone, or listen to a vast library of music. How can the simple old landline compete with all that?
Naturally, most of us have become so used to the rapid spread and improvement of smartphones that it sometimes comes as a bit of a surprise to discover somebody still using a landline. When was the last time, for example, you saw somebody using a public telephone? Encountering a landline telephone that is still in use can feel like stumbling on an artefact from the past, something old and dusty from a less technologically advanced age. Given how much more powerful and convenient our smartphone technology is, surely landlines cannot be long for this world?
And yet, these ancestors of the smartphone have yet to die out completely, as there are still a few instances where this old technology is of some use. For example, it’s a bit more difficult to misplace a landline, although smartphones often have an application that will allow you to find your missing mobile by logging into your computer. Unlike a smartphone, you don’t need to remember to charge a landline, so that is perhaps some small compensation for their lack of portability.
It is also worth keeping in mind that landlines are often still in use not for their original purpose of talking to human beings, but instead for another function: a landline is still the only way to set up a home internet connection. Of course, even this will probably someday be replaced by mobile internet, as that technology becomes more efficient and widespread. We are already starting to see signs of how the adoption of mobile technology may grow, as in many developing nations, for instance, local technology has jumped straight from landlines to mobile internet, precisely because installing cables just isn’t cost-effective.
Of course, old-fashioned telephones are not just occasionally found in homes, as larger organisations may find that maintaining landlines may simply be easier than looking into new telecommunications options. Likewise, landlines have some role to play as a backup to mobile phones for emergency services.
The landline is not quite dead, although it is clearly looking a little limited and outdated compared to the smartphone.