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Nomophobia: It’s Real, but Shouldn’t Affect Our Mobile Reality

Have you ever been in "the dark" for an hour? Or, worse ,12 hours like the Verizon Wireless customers residing in Southern New Jersey onJune 24? (Gasp!) What did you do? How did you function? And, perhaps the biggest question of all, did this confirm your fears about mobile technology?

Before you laugh off the idea that being disconnected from the world for a few hours, or even a few days, is a traumatic event that merits any kind of sympathy or special care (have you ever been around a teenager without a phone?) let me point out that many people – and businesses – do indeed feel like the world has reverted to the 20 th century if they do not have a mobile device accessible to them.

It is more than just a crutch, it is our lifeline. And even those of us who have not only survived, but found a way to thrive, in the pre-mobile era (yes, even pre-pager or pay phone) could now find ourselves – perhaps unwillingly – prone to Nomophobia.

Again, I know you're probably chuckling, but believe it or not this is a legitimate, clinical term for the psychological attachment some people have to their devices. It is real form of anxiety that occurs when you can’t communicate, have lost connectedness and can’t access information – and it’s prevalent in our entire society, not just among Millennials.

Addicted to Mobile Wireless Connectivity

This fear of phone separation (or no-mobile-phone-phobia) is considered a “new normal” by some and anyone could be susceptible, including our customers, partners, co-workers and, heck, even me. You may actually be nodding your head right now or raising your hand to acknowledge this as a feeling you've had before. There is no shame in that.

So although an interesting and even entertaining notion to some, Nomophobia is something that we as mobile technology developers and industry leaders have to acknowledge, if not for any other reason than to be prepared to manage expectations. For an IT decision maker: Is a single day of downtime really going to be a deal breaker for going mobile if the tech works perfectly the other 364 days a year?

As I mentioned above, Verizon's wireless network went down in New Jersey last month. I happened to be in Atlantic City that day for the Police Security Expo when the storms rolled through, the lines went down and the truck rolls began for Verizon’s repair crews. You have to remember, that most police departments in the state rely on the Verizon Wireless network for their mobile communications and broadband services. Let’s just say our society's true dependency on data "right here, right now" couldn't have become more evident that day.

Of course, officers didn't lay down their weapons and stop enforcing the law because they didn't have a working mobile device. It just took them a little longer to conduct background checks, run license plates, and coordinate with dispatch etc. via the radios they relied on alone. They had to go old-school and they weren't able to get the info as quickly as they needed it to make more informed decisions. Things were just a little more challenging without the advantages of anytime, anywhere mobile data accessibility.

So perhaps it's not that we are dependent on mobile technology, rather accustomed to that feeling of comfort, connection and accomplishment that mobile devices provide. A security blanket, if you will, that ensures we won't miss anything important, enables us to get things done much faster and more accurately, and basically just gives us instant access to the tools we need to be the best version of ourselves, especially at work.

Now thinking of a rugged tablet PC as a security blanket for a utility, a telco, a manufacturer or even healthcare provider may seem childish. But it isn’t. It's critical. A rugged tablet not only protects their worldwide operational capacity by extending workflows to technicians and decision makers at the most rural or extreme job sites, but it protects infrastructure asset investments, personnel capabilities, data and customer satisfaction.

Think of it this way, we talk about how we’d be afraid of having to read a map to get to a customer’s home or complete basic, hand-completed mathematical computations to test and measure valve pressure levels if we lose our mobile device. But if your mobile device – or your employees’ mobile devices – were to actually go dark, how would you really react? Would you see the glass as…

Half-empty?

So disappointed in the disconnect and downtime that you would stay with paper-and-pen? Perhaps even write off that device, that mobile service provider or even mobile investments all together?

OR

Half-full?

Caught off guard, but eager to seize this situation as a learning experience? Switch gears to find a creative, perhaps old-school way to keep employees “plugged in” to get the job done?

In technology we joke that if you ask an engineer the same question he’d say the glass is the wrong size. Pro golfer Ben Hogan once said, “I have a tendency to remember my poor shots a shade more vividly than the good ones.” But for those of you that aren’t engineers, I would guess that after the mobile device reconnected, that downtime would be no more memorable than a paper cut in the grand scheme of mobile life.

We at Xplore acknowledge nomophobia as a true concern among our customers, especially those that are banking so much on the mobile workforce. We embrace those “poor shots” as creative challenges to find new solutions. We are committed to ensuring uptime all the time by designing tablets with the best external protections from the elements, the strongest internal processing architecture and overall resiliency from any bump, drop or exposure possible. And great radios and antennas.

Granted, we can't control every aspect of the mobile experience and we can't cure Nomophobia. But we can ease any fears by giving our customers the tools necessary for maximum efficiency and productive when they are online. In turn, any unexpected downtime is just a bump in the road. 

How Bad Is Your Nomophobia?