GEORGE TOWN: The number of smartphone users in Malaysia grew to almost 100% during the Covid-19 pandemic, but a technologist warns of over-dependence on mobile gadgets to the point of causing social and health problems.
Universiti Sains Malaysia senior lecturer Dr Mohd Heikal Husin said based on the recent Handphone Users Survey 2021 by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, the overall penetration rate of smartphones in the country was 94.8%.
When the penetration rate was segregated into rural and urban dwellers, the survey showed that rural folk “won” by a small margin with a penetration rate of 96.2% versus 92.3% of urban respondents who stated that they were using smartphones.
Mohd Heikal, who is with USM’s School of Computer Studies, warned that the growing reliance on smartphones – especially among the younger generation – might lead to “mobile addiction” that can affect sleeping patterns and raise the risk of mental health issues such as depression.
He said the younger generations are often attached to their smartphones because of the high-level interaction and connectivity that their devices provide compared with other devices or real-world activities.
“There is the sense of ‘being included’ in an online community anytime, anywhere.
“When I say ‘included’, it relates to a fear of missing out without being part of something.
“This can lead to a somewhat unhealthy need to constantly interact with their online communities,” he said.
Mohd Heikal said the Handphone Users Survey also yielded some interesting results, among which is that 59% of the respondents do not trust mobile payment applications.
Of those who shunned the use of ewallets, 49.6% said they lacked the knowledge, skill or confidence to operate them.
Also low were the use of smartphones for shopping (41.1%) and banking (38.9%).
Mohd Heikal said the top smartphone uses among Malaysians include texting, social networking and video calls.
The survey involved 1,916 respondents who completed the questionnaire, and the results were released in July.
Penang Tech Dome (state-funded science discovery centre) chief executive officer Dr Khong Yoon Loong predicted that after smartphone adoption, smart wearables will come next.
“Perhaps the next jump is for outputs from smartphones to be fed into wearables. There are now smart watches and earbuds. There are now goggles that feed images to bring a virtual or augmented environment.
“There is also work being done to give a tactile experience, such as the feeling of being touched, all done remotely,” he said.
Mobile phone retailer Abu Hassan Pakeer Mohamed, 47, observed that the consumer trend of upgrading to new smartphone models had changed.
“People now are more prudent. They buy expensive hi-powered phones now and use them for several years before upgrading,” he said.