These days our "phones" aren't really phones in the dictionary sense ("an instrument for reproducing sounds at a distance"). And soon enough, if the CEO of AT&T is correct, they won't even involve namesake capability anymore. Looking at current communications trends, AT&T CEO Randall Stevenson predicts phones will soon no longer do the phone part of equation. "[I'd] be surprised if, in the next 24 months, we don't see people in the market place with data-only plans," he said at an investor conference, suggesting that cell phone plans will soon come without minutes with which to talk on the phone. As as the leader of one of the biggest and oldest telephone companies in the world, we trust his premonition more than the average predictor. Our phones are barely phones, anymore.
It's been some time since the general population used cell phones primarily for phone calls. As of 2009, all of our other phone functions -- texting, data, streaming video, email and streaming music -- surpassed calling, reported the New York Times's Jenna Wortham in May 2010. "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." Smartphones have only gotten more popular since then. As of February 2012 Nielsen found that almost half of all phones owners have smartphones that have a lot more capabilities than just calling. Another Nielsen report found that text messaging has "exploded" and the research firm expects texting alone to surpass talking within the next three years in terms of usage.